Friday, June 23, 2023

Review: Words with My Father: A Bipolar Journey Through Turbulent Times by Lowell Klessig and Lukas Klessig

Genre: Biography



Lowell Klessig’s posthumously-released story, infused with reflections by his son Lukas, provides an intimate window into one man’s life in flux with bipolar disorder. As the author narrates a postwar upbringing and describes the manic-depressive travails of developing his identity, he offers us a view into the turmoil of the times – and of his mind.

Through mania- and danger-filled months fighting for Civil Rights, protesting the Vietnam War and furthering the Conservation Movement, we see the purpose that sustained him. Through darkened panes, we witness the isolation and malaise of depressive winters that nearly took his life. This masterful chronicle allows us to peer into a restless and kinetic existence in one moment and a chasm of fatigue and hopelessness on the next page.

It’s a bipolar journey that you won’t ever forget.”


“Lowell Klessig led a life of action, ambition and accomplishment. He directly participated in the Civil Rights and Peace Movements. In addition, he became a celebrated conservation leader and environmental advocate in Wisconsin, the nation and around the world.

Lowell won the Wisconsin Idea Award and UW-Extension’s Teacher of the Year Award, among many other recognitions. His research and work served as the basis for several conservation laws. All along the way, he wrote, published and taught the ideas and lessons garnered from a multitude of experiences.

Lowell passed away in 2014 after a year-long battle with CJD - a rare neurodegenerative disease. This book is his first written chronicle of the anxiety, mania and depression that shaped his shortened life.”

“Lukas Klessig lives at the family ranch in Wisconsin, managing the care of forests, fields, gardens and buildings. He also looks after his Mom, monitors the family’s investments and, occasionally, tries to be creative.

Lukas is a proponent of mental health advocacy, animal welfare, outdoor living and physical activity. He spends winters in southern Florida. His beloved cat Shaddy often loiters nearby, supervising his activities.

This is his first book.”


This biography has three parts, each adding to the overall experience of reading the book.

The first and most significant part is the main book which I’ll discuss first. This contains selected writings from the journals of Lowell Klessig, chronicling his unique life, interspersed with sections from his son providing additional perspective or context. I’ve long felt that any random person has had experiences that put in the proper perspective with a good writer presenting the story could make for entertaining and enlightening read. Doing this with a biography for most people would be pushing it, but most people don’t have the interesting life that Lowell Klessig did. I found the story appealing for the perspectives it gave me on mental health struggles from the standpoint of the person going through the struggle. I enjoyed the historical perspective from someone who was on the ground, fighting for equal rights for everyone and to get the US out of the war in Vietnam in the 60s as well as environmental issues in later days.  

The second section and third section might be viewed as bonus sections and labeled in the book as the “postlude.” It has additional short writings that give additional insight into the authors that either didn’t fit into the main story or in a couple instances told the full story of something that was briefly mentioned in the main book where the story was worthwhile, but the full story would have been too much of a tangent in the main storyline. The second section are pictures of some of the people, places, and events. The pictures are color for those reading paper or a color-capable device.

While outside of what I typically look for in a book, I’m glad I gave this one a chance. It was thought provoking and exposed me to a lot of perspectives that should help me understand those with mental health struggles a bit better.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

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