Review by Ian McArdell
“Funny, eye-opening and educational ‘Bisection’ is an absorbing read which I encourage you to seek out”
Kenton Hall is variously; an actor, writer, director and musician. He is also a father. His book is a memoir with a twin focus; both figuratively and literally, chronicling both the personal challenge of living with bipolar disorder as well as the ongoing impact of parenting identical twin girls. The pair are lovingly referred to throughout with the nicknames he bestowed on them at birth, Baldy and Fathead.
His reminiscences are shot through with humour and pop culture references; plenty of which veer towards science fiction. He deploys a scattergun approach; some hitting the target and others flying straight over my head. Hall is no stranger to the groan-worthy pun either, with many chapter titles torturing a phrase which contains the prefix “bi”, and he deploys any number of entertaining flights of fancy while grappling with the dilemmas of parenting.
As the timeframe moves through the girl’s childhood, plenty of it resonated; I am a father of teenagers myself (though not twins) and could sympathise with his many of his fears and dilemmas. On some delightful occasions, his daughters wrestle control of the narrative to berate him – like accusing him of editing out his own swearing to look like a better parent. Whether fact or just an amusing device, it certainly provoked a giggle.
In other places I found him profound, such as in this moment where he considers what our children do and do not inherit from us:
“Kids pick up a lot from us — good and bad — which can make us both proud and peaky in equal measure. I think we forget, however, that this can sometimes form a useful trail of breadcrumbs back to our better selves. Whatever pieces of us they carry, they do so without the additional weight of our disappointments or missteps. If you want to know who you could be, watch your children.”
When he focuses on his bipolar disorder, Hall writes with a remarkable candour, illustrating his experiences through both the ups and the downs, and in his later diagnosed and medicated state. His self-awareness is eye opening, as he discusses feeling besieged and focussing to the point of obsession, saying:
“When the fever is upon me, I cannot be stopped. I am incapable of thinking outside the box in which I am currently rummaging.”
He also talks with passion about the stigma surrounding and judgement of mental illness which gave me pause for thought, my only previous knowledge of the condition really being the public admissions of Stephen Fry; who is thanked as a life-saving inspiration in the book’s acknowledgements.
As a Canadian émigré living in the UK, Hall also proffers thoughts on ludicrous but appealing nature of national identity and the challenge of his daughters, as teens, expressing an interest in religion when his is an atheist – with views informed by a childhood shaped by hardcore, cult level Christian parenting.
Funny, eye-opening and educational ‘Bisection’ is an absorbing read which I encourage you to seek out.
‘Bisection’ is published by Chinbeard Books on 31st August 2019.