I was first drawn to this book because of the title. Magical thinking is a developmental phase in childhood where basically children believe in what is not real. Fiction, at least the more fantastical type, is almost a way of telling off developmental psychologists who have determined that this thinking ends around the end of elementary school.
I had no idea what the novel was actually about. I had never read anything by Joan Didion. All I knew is that this book had won some awards and was suppose to be good.
What I found was one woman's story of coming to terms with a year that she can never forget. A year that she lost her husband and nearly lost her daughter as well. It is a story of tragedy and coming to terms with that tragedy and not coming to terms with that tragedy. The novel is raw and truthful and caused me to feel a type of pain that I had not previously known.
The writing was excellent. I now have Didion's works added to my to be read pile. I am interested in seeing how her style plays out in other topics. I was intrigued how she used phrases throughout the novel to tie points together or to drift back to other points. I was amazed how she wove in poetry, research, and a neurology textbook she picked up in a hospital gift shop. Didion must be a remarkable women.
I plan on reading the biography about her as well.
The only part of the book where I started getting lost was the ending. It didn't end. She just kept writing in a train of thought kind of way. Even the author addressed this - she didn't want it to end. If it ended then it would be over. Her husband would never be coming back. Even when she lost me she pulled me in further.
No one cares about crazy people - unless they are your family or friends. Then you care a lot. Then you care not only about crazy people, but about how society is letting them down, and has let them down since the beginning of history. As hard as racial and gender reform is, reform for mental health is harder - because no one cares about crazy people, even other marginalized groups.
There are a lot of books being released about autism, and even some about bipolar and other mood disorders. Yet, talking about Schizophrenia is still too scary for most people. So, thank you Ron Powers for writing the book that need to be written and for doing it in a way that captured the reality of schizophrenia without overwhelming readers who do not live with this disorder everyday. Thank you for showing the history of the treatment of people with mental health issues, and the current problem that our families face in trying to treat this disorder. Thank you also for showing the positive side of schizophrenia, the dynamic people and their creative genius.
I have never known my daughter pre-illness. She was diagnosed when she was just three years old. It has been, and continues to be, a long journey. As a parent there are many fears, and one such fear is that this illness will take my daughter's life. This is a fear that Ron has had to live through. Thank you for taking this and telling others, helping others to understand.
This book is powerful, it is one of only a few books that really go into depth about schizophrenia. It was also evident that Powers is a journalist and not a neuropsychologist. There are a few conclusions that he made that I do not specifically agree with. Specifically, I am not sure if his assessment that schizoaffective disorder is worse then schizophrenia. Research shows that individuals with schizoaffective are able to more integrate into society, although there is not really good resources for this to happen and many end up in jail. You also have the mood disorder symptoms on top of the psychotic symptoms. I am not sure that there is a better illness to have, but I also would not say that schizoaffective is worse than schizophrenia.
As a mother of a 16 year old daughter, thank you for speaking out. Thank you for telling your story, parts of my story, and the story of how we as a society continue to fail people who have mental health issues. It is neurologically impossible to have genius without having deviance from societal norm. It is time that everyone starts to care about crazy people.
Earlier in the year I picked up a book because there was a character who seemed to be so much like me. I was dispirited because she was nothing like me, and because the book turned out to not have much depth.
When I started reading Educated I found a character who had a childhood that was more similar to mine than anyone I had ever met. Reading about her family struggles, and her choices, was less triggering and more liberating. It takes courage to be able to speak about the unspeakable. It takes talent to be able to transcribe the emotions and experiences in a way that would engage her readers rather than alienate them.
I do not think the writing was technically perfect at all times. I think there was some choices in using time that was not the most effective, and there was some times that I wished the writing was a little more polished. Yet, these instances were small and were pale compared to the actual overall work.
I would be interested in a follow up memoir, one less focused on her childhood and more focused on her adulthood. I feel like Westover has a lot more left to say, and I would first in line to read it.
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