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72 Hour Hold

72 Hour Hold Cover



Reading Group Guide

The discussion topics, questions, and suggested reading list that follow are intended to enhance your group’s experience of 72 Hour Hold, a gripping novel of family tragedy and redemption by Bebe Moore Campbell.

1. The novel is narrated from Keri’s point of view. How does she present herself as a character in the opening chapter? What are the traits that have made her a successful businesswoman? How does her character contrast with that of her teenage daughter?

2. Dr. Ustinov tells Keri, “Your daughter is bipolar” (p.25). Consider the terms in which Dr. Ustinov presents Trina’s illness to Keri (p.29); his approach is purely factual while hers is psychological and filled with guilt. Does Keri begin to lose her guilt about Trina’s illness as the novel proceeds, or does she continue to feel that in some sense, it’s “always Mommy’s fault” (p.30)?

3. Friendships between women are important in this novel: what kinds of support and strength do women offer each other? Discuss examples of the loyalty and love shared between women characters in the story.

4. How does Keri’s history with her mother’s alcoholism affect her approach to Trina’s illness? In what ways is Keri’s refusal to forgive her mother understandable and in what ways does she refuse to realize that her mother might also be considered to have “a brain disease”? How does Keri eventually make the choice to let her mother back into her life?

5. In what ways does 72 Hour Hold help readers question the phenomenon that having a perfect child (high-achieving, popular, talented, beautiful, etc.) contributes greatly to a parent’s self esteem and social status? Does Keri eventually let go of these ideas, and if so, how?

6. What is the effect of Campbell’s frequent use of the metaphor of slavery–its images, its terrors, its punishing psychology–throughout the novel? See, for instance, page 3 (“the hounds are tracking you”) and page 28 (“I embarked on my own Middle Passage that night, marching backward, ankles shackled”). If Keri’s experience with her daughter’s mental illness is like the experience of slavery, does the novel yield any sense of liberation from this condition?

7. How does Keri’s relationship with Orlando differ from her relationship with Clyde? At a moment of extreme crisis in the story, it seems as though Keri will get back together with Clyde. Why does she ultimately choose Orlando rather than Clyde?

8. Just as Keri has to accept her daughter’s illness, Orlando has to accept P.J.’s homosexuality. Why is this so devastating for Orlando? Does the description of the household Keri and Orlando share at the end of the novel suggest that both Keri and Orlando are at peace with their children?

9. What is the significance of Keri’s skill as a masseuse in her approach to healing both herself and Trina? Why is this mode of touching so important to the bond between the two of them?

10. The relationship between Keri and Orlando presents an example of the difficulties of self-made women who find themselves with less successful men. (Campbell has written a nonfiction book on this topic.) Why is Keri impatient with Orlando’s lack of success, and how does she come to terms with it?

11. The segment of the novel that describes the intervention, which involves a road trip and a good deal of suspense, adds an element of adventure to this story of family tragedy. What is the effect of these chapters, and how does Campbell make them such compelling reading?

12. Karl, the intervention leader, is the child of a mother who was mentally ill. What do his and Keri’s family histories tell us about the kinds of damage done by untreated mental illness? In what ways can Karl and Keri be seen as overcompensating for–or still reacting to–their painful childhood experiences?

13. In a significant conversation between Keri and Trina on pp. 298—299, Trina acknowledges the pain of having to give up the college life she was on the verge of, even as she also acknowledges the danger of suicidal feelings. Does the end of the novel suggest a hopeful outcome for Trina?

14. What is the significance of the green pantsuit with the small stain, which Keri finally wears at Trina’s performance (p.318)? How is it related to the novel’s epigraph from a Leonard Cohen song: “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in”?

15. How does this novel open up the inside world of families dealing with severe mental illness? What did you find surprising about the story? Discuss other books on the subject of mental illness that members of your group have read, and how 72 Hour Hold compares to them.

Product Details

Campbell, Bebe Moore
Mothers and daughters
Manic-depressive persons
General Fiction
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.52x6.54x1.31 in. 1.48 lbs.

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

72 Hour Hold
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 336 pages Alfred A. Knopf - English 9781400040742 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This powerful story of a mother trying to cope with her daughter's bipolar disorder reads at times like a heightened procedural. Keri, the owner of an upscale L.A. resale clothing shop, is hopeful as daughter Trina celebrates her 18th birthday and begins a successful-seeming new treatment. But as Trina relapses into mania, both their worlds spiral out of control. An ex-husband who refuses to believe their daughter is really sick, the stigmas of mental illness in the black community, a byzantine medico-insurance system — all make Keri increasingly desperate as Trina deteriorates (requiring, repeatedly, a '72 hour hold' in the hospital against her will). The ins and outs of working the mental health system take up a lot of space, but Moore Campbell is terrific at describing the different emotional gradations produced by each new circle of hell. There's a lesbian subplot, and a radical (and expensive) group that offers treatment off the grid may hold promise. The author of a well-reviewed children's book on how to cope with a parent's mental illness, Moore Campbell (What You Owe Me) is on familiar ground; she gives Keri's actions and decisions compelling depth and detail, and makes Trina's illness palpable. While this feels at times like a mission-driven book, it draws on all of Moore Campbell's nuance and style. Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Campbell's clearly trying to make a few specific points, but while doing so she's created a story that is universally touching."
"Review" by , "The subject matter of the novel is fascinating, and Moore Campbell does an excellent job of revealing the stigma of mental illness, compounded with the stigma of race."
"Review" by , "Bebe Moore Campbell tells the story with such passion and detail that it feels as if the mother's painful journey must be based on real events..."
"Review" by , "[O]f all Campbell's novels, this one feels closest to the bone....it turns its empathic eye toward a mother's worst nightmare, and does not look away."
"Review" by , "[72 Hour Hold] reveals the pain behind the statistics, the bewilderment of repetitive loss, the ebb and flow of hope against hope and, finally, the necessity of acceptance."
"Review" by , "[T]he novel is as fast-paced as its title implies. And at no point did Campbell become preachy. She let her commanding storytelling pull me in, and she kept me riveted during this timely tale of a mother's roller coaster ride to hell and back."
"Review" by , "The characters are richly drawn, and Campbell is particularly skilled at exploring the nuances of family, with all the definitions that concept entails."
"Review" by , "Stark, incisive and often harrowing, 72 Hour Hold brings the trauma of mental illness vividly to life. Campbell's characters are wholly believable, her tale, exceptionally well crafted."
"Review" by , "This is a wonderful, enlightening story told with the utmost tenderness and sensitivity."
"Synopsis" by , In this novel of family and redemption, a mother struggles to save her eighteen-year-old daughter from the devastating consequences of mental illness by forcing her to deal with her bipolar disorder. New York Times best-selling author Bebe Moore Campbell draws on her own powerful emotions and African-American roots, showcasing her best writing yet.

Trina suffers from bipolar disorder, making her paranoid, wild, and violent. Watching her child turn into a bizarre stranger, Keri searches for assistance through normal channels. She quickly learns that a seventy-two hour hold is the only help you can get when an adult child starts to spiral out of control. After three days, Trina can sign herself out of any program.

Fed up with the bureaucracy of the mental health community and determined to save her daughter by any means necessary, Keri signs on for an illegal intervention. The Program is a group of radicals who eschew the psychiatric system and model themselves after the Underground Railroad. When Keri puts her daughters fate in their hands, she begins a journey that has her calling on the spirit of Harriet Tubman for courage. In the upheaval that follows, she is forced to confront a past that refuses to stay buried, even as she battles to secure a future for her child.

Bebe Moore Campbells moving story is for anyone who has ever faced insurmountable obstacles and prayed for a happy ending, only to discover shed have to reach deep within herself to fight for it.

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