BEP Book Review: His Bright Light, The story of Nick Traina by Danielle Steele

His Bright Light, The story of Nick Traina

Written by Danielle Steele

Danielle Steel is a very prolific writer who has written more than 70 novels. She is considered the best selling author of our time  and has sold over 800 million copies of her books. All have been bestsellers. Most of her novels are romance with suspense. She’s also written a number of children’s books and even a book of poetry.  This book, however, is quite different. It is the very personal story of her son Nick Traina.
Nick was the second of nine children. He was a very bright, creative child, who loved music and was part of a punk band when he was a teenager. As a small child he was extremely bright and precocious, but was also very moody with loud, disturbing behaviors. By the time he was seven his mother knew there was something seriously wrong. He was often angry, belligerent, and never in harmony with those around him. Doctors and school officials said they didn’t see the problems and he just needed discipline.

This is the story of family issues. It follows a child who was deeply disturbed and developed into a teenager’s struggle with drugs and mental illness. We learn about his mother’s challenge getting help for him, and the rest of the family coping with constant distractions. There was much debate, particularly when he was an adolescent, about whether it was really a mental illness or whether he was just a spoiled rich kid.  Nick’s  mother worked with many different professionals when he had multiple psychiatric admissions for drug abuse and what was then diagnosed as manic-depression. She even hired a professional companion and surrogate mother to provide stability and support.

This book is well worth your time. It is very honest and helps us understand what it is like to have a child with serious mental illness and how that affects the entire family. The struggle to get help for him and how they dealt with his behavior was much more than normal adolescence.  One of the saddest facts was that, even with all of her resources, professional contacts, and finances, the author was unable to save her son. He took his own life at the age of 19 with an overdose of morphine.  After his death Steel started the Nick Traina Foundation to raise funds for research and help with mental health issues.

I would like to see this author do a follow-up book or updated version of this book, discussing what kind of changes she sees as a result of research and work with her foundation. Some of the questions she asked years ago I still see today. Some things  are better, but it is still very difficult for young children with mental Illness and their families. And for people of all ages, when do you know it is a mental illness? How do you get an adult child help when he/she can’t control behaviors?   How do you really evaluate the child and the help that child is receiving? As a parent, how and when do you set limits for a child with mental illness?  Where do we get help for our children and family today?

According to the author, doctors are diagnosing more young children and teenagers with bipolar and we have more effective medications so they do get help earlier. We’ve done much better in these past 10 years, but there’s much more to do. In this book, Danielle Steel shares a very personal story and gives  us  insight into what it was like raising a child with serious mental illness. Would it have been much different today? A child with mental illness will add to the turmoil in a  family no matter the age. Read Nick Traina’s story and you will learn much more about how one family handled the issues surrounding a child with mental illness.


This Book review was written by BEP member Kathie Tuntland,  a retired educator who is an avid reader. Books reviewed here are available to check out from the Brookings Public Library.

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