ARC AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: While you Were Out An Intimate Family Portrait of Mental Illness in an Era of Silence by Meg Kissinger


Publication Date: September 5, 2023
Format: Audio
Genre:  Memoir
Narrator: Meg Kissinger

Publisher: MacMillan Audio
 11 hours 8 minutes 
Buy: Kindle | Audio


Growing up in the 1960s in the suburbs of Chicago, Meg Kissinger’s family seemed to live a charmed life. With eight kids and two loving parents, the Kissingers radiated a warm, boisterous energy. Whether they were spending summer days on the shores of Lake Michigan, barreling down the ski slopes, or navigating the trials of their Catholic school, the Kissingers always knew how to live large and play hard.

But behind closed doors, a harsher reality was unfolding—a heavily medicated mother hospitalized for anxiety and depression, a manic father prone to violence, and children in the throes of bipolar disorder and depression, two of whom would take their own lives. Through it all, the Kissingers faced the world with their signature dark humor and the unspoken family rule: never talk about it.

While You Were Out begins as the personal story of one family’s struggles then opens outward, as Kissinger details how childhood tragedy catalyzed a journalism career focused on exposing our country’s flawed mental health care. Combining the intimacy of memoir with the rigor of investigative reporting, the book explores the consequences of shame, the havoc of botched public policy, and the hope offered by new treatment strategies. 

Powerful, candid and filled with surprising humor, this is the story of one family’s love and resilience in face of great loss.


I received a free copy of this book from Macmillan Audio through I am leaving this review voluntarily.

This book was disturbing, honest and shines a light on mental health and the failure of the government and psychology to provide help for those suffering. Meg's honestly brings to light the mental health crisis in America and in families too ashamed to talk about it. So many suffer but often refuse to get help due to the stigma attached to a mental health diagnosis. By bringing her story to light she is helping other families know that they are not alone that so many people suffer and maybe is we ban together we may be able to help. 

So much of her story resonated with me from the relief and guilt she felt when her sister Nancy died, to begrudgingly sharing her story with others and the wealth of support and understanding she received.  She expected condemnation but was surprised by how much her story touched others lives. When we were struggling with our daughters drug addiction it was so hush hush, when she died some didn't want to say how she died but I'm not for hiding and secrets and I will tell anyone that asks and even those that don't. We have to bring these issues out into the open and stop looking at people with mental illness and drug addiction as less then.  They are people and they have families who love and will miss them if they die. We need to have more compassion for those who struggle instead of brushing them aside as losers or "that would never happen in my family". 

I see so many young people today suffering from crippling anxiety, particularly after COVID. Mental illness needs to be addressed and this book is a great stepping stone to learning more and gaining compassion for those who suffer. First hand accounts tend to put faces to mental illness and we start to recognize them as human. Fantastic book and brave of her to write it. 

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