When Red Is Blue

When Red Is Blue

Sabrynne McLain’s award-winning first novel, When Red Is Blue, is available in both paperback and ebook format at all major online retailers.


Kate Faraday, a young woman from a small town in Michigan, dreams of leaving her past behind her and moving to California. But when her schizophrenic mother is found dead in a ravine, Kate is forced to examine her conflicting emotions over her mother’s death, while coping with the demands of her alcoholic father and local residents who witnessed the shame of her childhood. In the end, Kate discovers that the most difficult relationship to reconcile is the one she has with herself.

When Red Is Blue is based on events that took place during Sabrynne McLain’s childhood and twenties. This character-driven story paints a vivid picture of the emotional trauma and self-esteem issues faced by children of dysfunctional parents, while leading the reader through a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance.


“ ‘You see, Katie?’ she said excitedly. ‘I told you there were people living under the floor. Look! Over there…see what Frisky’s doing? He’s found their hiding place! Animals can smell things, you know. It’s just like I told them…I keep telling them but they never listen.’” (p.1) These are the words of Kate Faraday’s mother in the opening passages in Sabrynne McLain’s work, “When Red is Blue.” The year is 1969 and Katie is a child at this time. Her childhood is one filled with turmoil. Her mother suffers from schizophrenia and her father is an alcoholic. What makes the book even more interesting is that the events that take place are actually based on a true story; in fact, it is the author’s own story. Although the book is technically a fictional memoir, the elements of truth in it make it all the more intriguing. This look inside “Kate’s” life and her not so “normal” childhood definitely makes for an attention-grabbing read. Seeing how her life was shaped and molded by the events of her childhood was very interesting.

In the “A Reader’s Companion” section at the end of the book, McLain tells us the reasoning behind the title that she chose, “When Red is Blue.” She references Katie’s discussion in the book with her friend Liz. They were talking about what it was like to live with someone who has a mental illness. Kate says that it is like her mom “seeing a box that she knows is red when the rest of the world perceives it as blue.” (p.300) The chosen title couldn’t be more perfect for the subject matter.

I think this would be a good “case study” book for students of psychology, social work, or other similar disciplines. I also believe that this would be an excellent book club selection, as I think that the topics touched on would provoke quite a bit of discussion. There is even a discussion guide provided at the end of the book. I have always enjoyed this type of subject matter and the story in “When Red is Blue” proved to be no exception. I was captivated by McLain’s writing and recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys memoir type books.Kam Aures for Rebecca’s Reads

Sabrynne McLain’s autobiographical memoir/novel When Red Is Blue is exciting and heart felt. Her descriptive style makes readers feel they are with her in each scene as she details encounters of her growing up as a bright young person, managing a mother with chronic long-term paranoid schizophrenia and an alcoholic father. The reader’s feelings are wrenched at the reality of a young person’s struggle to care for a mother with severe mental illness, while a well-meaning mental health system, professionals and authorities are unable to successfully contribute anything of tangible value.

The story is gripping on every level. Sabrynne has lived a colourful life with her friends, her lovers, her work, and the tragic reality of her experiences…This book had me sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. It finds a happy ending in the author’s retention of sanity and the drive to go on with her life to face new challenges – a revelation of Sabrynne’s special resilience. It is with much pleasure this publication is awarded the NNAAMI Trophy Award – A must read book!”          – Mr. Paul Mckillop, Convenor, NNAAMI

“Learning to live with a parent who has long-term mental health issues is difficult for any child. When it’s both parents it’s more than double disadvantage as there is no-one to help the child understand the ‘how to’ of life from anything other than a skewed perspective. When Red Is Blue takes us into Kate’s world, a world inhabited by a mentally ill mother and an alcoholic father, where we get to understand why adult Kate reacts to people the way she does, the burden of responsibility that she has to manage on a daily basis and the final outcome, as Kate has to deal with tragedy whilst trying to bring some stability into her life, and ultimately gives a message of hope. – Dr. Vee Freir, Clinical Psychologist

“This is an exceptionally well-written debut book. In line with many great reads it’s about a journey, a personal journey of the book’s main character, Kate. It contrasts various timelines in the life of a woman who learns about herself and her own resilience. It is often said that the way we are brought up dictates who we are and how we act. The ability to avoid self destruction depends on understanding and making sense of our younger experiences, especially if they are traumatic. This book is a clever mechanic of self-reflection. We all have different life experiences, so it is unlikely we will have shared Kate’s exact situations. However, I expect many people will be able to associate aspects of her experiences to ourselves or someone we know. It is this ability that makes this book a success. Kate’s story is written in a style that is clear and believable. The outcome shows how Kate is able dissect, and come to terms with, her difficult childhood experiences. By understanding those experiences she can now understand herself. Expect tears, smiles and more.”  – Supermack

“Having been working with people with various levels of mental health issues over the years, I was really drawn to this book as it spoke of the experience of dealing with mental health issues from the family’s perspective. The account did not disappoint, it feels real, describing the tribulations of living with someone with mental health issues in a heartfelt way, without sugar-coating the truth. You are instantly drawn to the main character Kate as she tries to process the mixed bag of emotions she’s faced with at the death of her mother, in particular her repeated sense of helplessness and guilt, mixed with resentment and love towards her schizophrenic mother. For those who have experienced dealing with people with mental health issues, you will find a lot you can relate to in this novel and for those who haven’t, this will give you a true insight into its gritty and yet sometimes humorous reality.”  – Delphine D.

“An alcoholic father, a mentally ill mother, unconditional love, shame, hate and feelings of inadequacy – Sabrynne’s heroine Kate covers the waterfront as she deals with several conflicting realities in this wonderful first novel from an author who obviously lived the story. It’s a captivating read that takes you from feelings of deep sadness to exhilaration as Kate says her final goodbyes to her parents and, in doing so, realizes they have given her a solid base upon which to build her own future.”  –  pdodson 

“I believe this book does a masterful job showing how a family can be torn apart by mental issues and yet still trying to make everything work. How secretes are kept from friends for the hope of being normal and not having them look down at the mentally sick. It shows how one struggles to deal with the sick person and themselves. Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed this book. Following the struggles that a mentally ill family member can cause for themselves, their family, and those around them is hard. Nobody can truly make you feel and understand these struggles however this book does give you a really close attempt at that. Mental illness is hard to go through, hard to understand and hard to explain. This book has a strong base of knowledge on the issues and conveys it to the reader in an insightful story. Very enjoyable read.”  – Gracielou