This fascinating book is both a memoir and a mystery
It's a memoir of the author's strange family and bizarre childhood and of the three breakdowns which led to her being "sectioned" (involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.) it's a mystery because it remains uncertain which of her problems stemmed from her illness and which from the largely ineffective and sometimes brutal "treatment" she received. even her diagnosis (schizophrenia) is in doubt. she was the child of a passive, alcoholic mother and an angry, abusive father. the first years of her life were spent in emotional turmoil surrounded by luxury. the family lived in a huge old house with extensive grounds. there were servants, expensive cars, and private schools. her father's compulsive gambling brought about an abrupt change of fortune. the children were removed from the boarding schools that were their only refuge and placed in day schools near the family's cramped apartment. the author (timid and nervous before) was shocked, frightened, and lost. moving into her teens years, struggling to make friends and with no parental support or supervision, she became a regular pot smoker. it is known that teens who smoke pot are more likely to develop schizophrenia. what is not clear is whether the pot is a causative factor or whether the teen is experiencing the beginnings of the illness and self-medicating. the author is convinced that using pot triggered her breakdowns. her stories of the years when she was in and out of mental hospitals are incredible in their detail and emotional impact. amazingly, the story has a happy ending. today the author has a solid marriage and four children. a supportive husband, motherhood, and success in her writing career have given her increased confidence and the courage to speak up. she has also benefited from the growing openness about mental illness and the trend toward encouraging the mentally ill to be decision making partners in their own treatment whenever possible. her mother is now sober and they have a loving relationship. her father died from cancer. on his death bed he was unimpressed with her gifts of pajamas and razors. he demanded lottery tickets and had the numbers written out for her! i read this book a year ago and i have thought about it so many times since then. i read 250-300 books a year and seldom find one that is as compelling and memorable as this one. the author's intelligence, honesty, and indomitable spirit shine through. her story is another piece in the puzzle that we must solve in order to bring relief to those who suffer from this terrible disease. i thank her for having the courage to tell it.