HURRY DOWN SUNSHINE by Michael Greenberg

Book Quote:

“On July 5, 1996, my daughter was struck mad. She was fifteen and her crack-up marked a turning point in both our lives. ‘I feel like I’m traveling and traveling with nowhere to go back to,’ she said in a burst of lucidity while hurtling away toward some place I could not dream or imagine. I wanted to grab her and bring her back, but there was no turning back. Suddenly every point of connection between us had vanished.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody (FEB 17, 2010)

Michael Greenberg’s brilliant and mesmerizing memoir of his daughter’s madness is a poignant and terrifying book about the depths and peaks of mania and the desperate struggle that a loved one will go to in order to bring someone back from the world of psychosis.

When Greenberg’s daughter, Sally, first becomes psychotic, he thinks it is more her creativity than anything else. He is slow to recognize her manic state. But then, who would first assume that someone they love has gone to a place of madness. “But how does one tell the difference between Plato’s “divine madness” and gibberish? Between enthousiasmos (literally, to be inspired by a god) and lunacy? Between the prophet and the “medically mad.”

A long journey ensues for Sally and her familiy: hospitalization, horrendous psycho-pharmacological interventions, psychiatric care, day hospitals, regimens for behavioral therapy and behavioral contracts. The medications make her weary and unable to concentrate. She becomes sluggish and unlike her quick and creative self. Her father decides to try the medication to get an idea of what it is doing to Sally. He says, “It begins to hit me – – in waves. I feel dizzy and far away, as if I am about to fall from a great height but my feet are nailed to the edge of the precipice, so that the rush of the fall itself is indefinitely deferred. The air feels watery and thick, until finally I am neck-deep in a swamp through which it is possible to move only with the greatest of effort, and then only a few feet at a time.” Such is the state that his daughter is in with the medicine. Without it, however, she is mad.

Her identity becomes obscured. Who is this beloved daughter? How did she get to the state she is in? “I keep asking myself the obvious question, the helpless question. How did this happen? And why? One has cancer or AIDS, but one is schizophrenic, one is manic depressive, as if they were innate attributes of being, part of the human spectrum, no more curable than one’s temperament or the color of one’s eyes.” The author struggles with how to view his beloved Sally, how to separate her from her disease, how to separate himself from her disease.

The book is peopled by interesting characters. There is Steve, the author’s mentally ill brother for whom he is caretaker. There is a family of Hasidic Jews in the Psychiatric unit, looking over and caring for one of their own. There is the author’s wife, a dancer and choreographer who loves Sally very much. There is Sally’s biological mother, the author’s ex-wife, who is paralyzed with fear at Sally’s illness and first hopes that some homeopathic remedies will make a difference. There is the author’s well-dressed and lovely mother who searches her past to assure the author that Sally is not, absolutely is not, like his brother Steve.

Sally eventually reaches an equilibrium of recovery and remission from her manic depression. She is able to return to school though she is fearful and reticent about her history as a “mental patient.” The story has no happy ending, as the disease does not just disappear. It may hide for a while but it is ever present. Sally has a lifetime of heavy-duty medications and psychiatric interventions in order for her to maintain a semblance of normalcy. She is forever in the grips of the mental health system, a system not always user friendly to families and loved ones.

The author paints a realistic and painful picture of what mental illness in a family can do to the victim and her loved ones. It is a powerful picture, one that is not soon to be forgotten. Anyone who has every dealt with mental illness or has an interest in it will be enriched by this book. It is a must-read for any person who loves someone who is mentally ill or is touched by mental illness in any way. This means all of us.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 99 readers
PUBLISHER: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 8, 2009)
REVIEWER: Hurry Down Sunshine
AMAZON PAGE: Hurry Down Sunshine: A Father’s Story of Love and Madness
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Michael Greenberg
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
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February 17, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Non-fiction, Reading Guide

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