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The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia

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The debut of an important new literary voice: an extraordinarily affecting, fiercely intelligent memoir that unflinchingly traces the path of the schizophrenia that runs in the author's family. Against the starkly beautiful backdrop of Anchorage, Alaska, where the author grew up, Marin Sardy weaves a fearless account of the shapeless thief—the schizophrenia—that kept her The debut of an important new literary voice: an extraordinarily affecting, fiercely intelligent memoir that unflinchingly traces the path of the schizophrenia that runs in the author's family. Against the starkly beautiful backdrop of Anchorage, Alaska, where the author grew up, Marin Sardy weaves a fearless account of the shapeless thief—the schizophrenia—that kept her mother immersed in a world of private delusion and later manifested in her brother, ultimately claiming his life. Composed of exquisite, self-contained chapters that, cumulatively, take us through three generations of this adventurous, artistic, and often haunted family, The Edge of Every Day is an inquiry into our assumptions about how the mind can and should work—and a referendum on the treatment of the mentally ill in our society. As she explores the contours of cognition, Sardy also pushes the boundaries of her prose: one chapter is composed of quotes from family members talking about her mother. Another leads us through "loops" of past memory and current experience as she and her husband begin to merge their lives together. Through it all is Sardy's blazing compassion and relentless curiosity: her meditations take us to the very edge of love and loss—and invite us to look at what comes after.


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The debut of an important new literary voice: an extraordinarily affecting, fiercely intelligent memoir that unflinchingly traces the path of the schizophrenia that runs in the author's family. Against the starkly beautiful backdrop of Anchorage, Alaska, where the author grew up, Marin Sardy weaves a fearless account of the shapeless thief—the schizophrenia—that kept her The debut of an important new literary voice: an extraordinarily affecting, fiercely intelligent memoir that unflinchingly traces the path of the schizophrenia that runs in the author's family. Against the starkly beautiful backdrop of Anchorage, Alaska, where the author grew up, Marin Sardy weaves a fearless account of the shapeless thief—the schizophrenia—that kept her mother immersed in a world of private delusion and later manifested in her brother, ultimately claiming his life. Composed of exquisite, self-contained chapters that, cumulatively, take us through three generations of this adventurous, artistic, and often haunted family, The Edge of Every Day is an inquiry into our assumptions about how the mind can and should work—and a referendum on the treatment of the mentally ill in our society. As she explores the contours of cognition, Sardy also pushes the boundaries of her prose: one chapter is composed of quotes from family members talking about her mother. Another leads us through "loops" of past memory and current experience as she and her husband begin to merge their lives together. Through it all is Sardy's blazing compassion and relentless curiosity: her meditations take us to the very edge of love and loss—and invite us to look at what comes after.

30 review for The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia

  1. 4 out of 5

    Antigone

    Marin Sardy, essayist and award-winning writer of two photography books, pulls back from the maddening crowd to examine madness - in particular, schizophrenia as it has appeared in her family and affected the core of her existence. Raised by a mother who fell to the condition when Marin was ten - and categorically refused medication or treatment to address - she's had a front-row seat throughout the course of her life to the challenging nature of this illness. Were it not difficult enough to be Marin Sardy, essayist and award-winning writer of two photography books, pulls back from the maddening crowd to examine madness - in particular, schizophrenia as it has appeared in her family and affected the core of her existence. Raised by a mother who fell to the condition when Marin was ten - and categorically refused medication or treatment to address - she's had a front-row seat throughout the course of her life to the challenging nature of this illness. Were it not difficult enough to be parented by a woman afflicted with severe psychological delusions, the universe doubled down to present her with a brother cascading helplessly into the same nightmarish terrain. The narrative is fractured, verging sharply from oblique observation to intense analysis to bewilderment, adjustment, and reflection on the symbols she used to process her pain. I was reminded very much of David Markson's work (Wittgenstein's Mistress, Reader's Block), and the power he could quite miraculously compact into a style of such loose cohesion. There's something very primitive going on here, and very brave, and very human. "Yes, I know," I wanted to say sometimes. About the sense that no one but you was going to hang on to what was sensible, what was real. The conviction that any deviation into nonsense would lead to chaos, dissolution. The contempt, laced with terror, toward those who would be so cavalier with this thing called reality. As if reality were something you could simply cast off and live without. As if we don't absolutely need it, don't truly want it. As if that which is literal and measurable is not worth all our respect. This is not the story of a journey. This is the story of a state of being. As such, it goes nowhere and encompasses an entire internal world. And it is very, very good.

  2. 4 out of 5

    E.B.

    A painful and beautiful account of what it means to live with and love someone suffering from mental illness, and how those relationships shape you and your understanding of the world. Required reading for anyone who knows someone with a mental illness, psychiatrists, psychology students, doctors, law enforcement officers, people working with the homeless, anyone looking to deepen their sense of empathy and understanding of others... so, everyone? Incredible book. Thanks for writing it, Marin.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    A noted author of essays and criticism, Marin Sardy is the daughter and sister of schizophrenics, her mother and her brother Tom.  Although her mother was never officially diagnosed, doctors suggested that she did have some form of schizophrenia, and, to Marin, her mother was stolen by this “shapeless thief”.  The earlier parts of the book explore schizophrenia in a way that feels rather loosely connected, and indeed, portions of this book were previously published as essays:  personal experienc A noted author of essays and criticism, Marin Sardy is the daughter and sister of schizophrenics, her mother and her brother Tom.  Although her mother was never officially diagnosed, doctors suggested that she did have some form of schizophrenia, and, to Marin, her mother was stolen by this “shapeless thief”.  The earlier parts of the book explore schizophrenia in a way that feels rather loosely connected, and indeed, portions of this book were previously published as essays:  personal experiences, effects on families, a possible link to creativity, David Bowie and Ms. Sardy’s own wardrobe choices.  However, as the book nears its central story, that of her brother Tom, its earlier disjointedness seems purposeful, a mimicking of the “episodic, fragmented, gaping” effect of schizophrenia itself.  Life to a schizophrenic is described as “a series of stills”. Tom’s story is heartbreaking, and that is neither trite nor a cliche, no.  No other statement does justice.  Robbed of all hope and promise, homeless on the streets of Anchorage, in and out of our inadequate mental health care systems, loved helplessly by family and friends who shelter him when possible and search endlessly for resources, solutions, help of any kind.  Ultimately, Ms. Sardy relates a personal experience with a baby raven as a way to tell us that “…sometimes, ceremony is the only resolution we can have.”  A deeply moving and thought-provoking reading experience.  Available in May wherever books are sold. Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group / Pantheon via NetGalley.  I would like to thank the publisher and the author for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marian

    This book. It is so intricate, nuanced, intelligent, unflinching, by turns lyrical and raw, poetic and narrative, brainy and visceral. There's no secret about the book's climax, its most devastating event, but the construction and language held me spellbound and absolutely crushed yet consoled by the work's beauty. Most chapters are written as essays capable of standing alone, using many different styles and forms - combined with an occasional straight-ahead narrative chapter. Yet there is a uni This book. It is so intricate, nuanced, intelligent, unflinching, by turns lyrical and raw, poetic and narrative, brainy and visceral. There's no secret about the book's climax, its most devastating event, but the construction and language held me spellbound and absolutely crushed yet consoled by the work's beauty. Most chapters are written as essays capable of standing alone, using many different styles and forms - combined with an occasional straight-ahead narrative chapter. Yet there is a unity of overall tone and linguistic control. It's the best nonfiction book I've read this year, and I doubt it will be beat. I'll be thinking about it for a long time.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Aimee Dars

    When just a young girl, Marin Sardy’s mother began exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia, though she never admitted to a problem and therefore was never diagnosed or treated. She did however, keep foil on the end of the television antennas and was so fearful of assassins she barricaded the door at night and often took the children to sleep in a motel. Her parents got divorced, and her father bought the house next door so they could easily share custody, but he never discussed his ex-wife’s mental When just a young girl, Marin Sardy’s mother began exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia, though she never admitted to a problem and therefore was never diagnosed or treated. She did however, keep foil on the end of the television antennas and was so fearful of assassins she barricaded the door at night and often took the children to sleep in a motel. Her parents got divorced, and her father bought the house next door so they could easily share custody, but he never discussed his ex-wife’s mental health. At times, Marin thought she was the one who had a problem. No one else was talking about it, so maybe her mother was the sane one. By the time her little brother Tom reached his twenties, the family still wasn’t talking about mental health, but they had to acknowledge that the “shapeless thief” that stole their mother had set his eyes on Tom as well. In The Edge of Everyday, Sardy combines innovative slices of writing to explore the illness that stalked her family and how it affected her and her other family members, particularly her father. She also reaches into the past to see how tendrils of genetic code of previous generations might have influenced the present and so to the future. The chapters or essays in the volume take on different forms. Some are list, such as strange things Sardy has encountered. Another is a list of responses of family members--siblings, aunts, her father, her grandmother--to her mother’s symptoms. So striking is the repetition of hopelessness and lack of understanding evident in the “I don’t know”s in their reflections. Another chapter is told in “loops” of time. The writing is lovely and raw, showing how mental illness echoes in a family, a group of friends, and a community. Sardy also frequently calls attention to the inadequate institutions available for those suffering from mental health issues which keeps them from getting the individualized treatment they need. Though the chapters cover diverse subjects, from Sardy’s teenage gymnastics career to her David Bowie-inspired wardrobe in her twenties and her relationship with wicca, the theme of walking the line between mental health and mental illness winds through them giving them a cohesiveness. Only one chapter, “Dades Gorge,” seemed out of place, and I am slightly mystified as to why it was included. Also, after Tom began exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia, Sardy focuses on him and puts aside the thread of her mother; I would have liked their stories as they affected Sardy to be more integrated. The Edge of Schizophrenia cuts deeply and though the story is often painful, it reveals in beautiful prose a family’s struggle with this mental illness that is still often misunderstood. The book will appeal to those who enjoy readings memoirs as well as anyone who desires an intimate account of living with a family member having this condition. Thank you to NetGalley and Pantheon Books for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review. ...aka darzy... | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

  6. 5 out of 5

    Robert Sassor

    Feeling fractured, and also more whole. Four stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carl

    An extraordinary memoir--a brilliant, beautiful, heart-wrenching work. The book also has an interesting structure: in addition to the deeply compelling family story, the author adds in some thoughtful, measured, cautious, yet stimulating science writing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    I always approach memoirs from family members of those with mental health issues with trepidation because too often there is blame and anger and that just feels personal. In this case, I was rewarded with a moving account of what it is to grow up with schizophrenia in your life, to live while knowing your loved one is out there in the world - homeless and off medication, and the grief after his death, having been helpless to stop it. Some of it made me think of my father, the outlandish beliefs, I always approach memoirs from family members of those with mental health issues with trepidation because too often there is blame and anger and that just feels personal. In this case, I was rewarded with a moving account of what it is to grow up with schizophrenia in your life, to live while knowing your loved one is out there in the world - homeless and off medication, and the grief after his death, having been helpless to stop it. Some of it made me think of my father, the outlandish beliefs, the strangeness of growing up with a mentally ill parent, the secretive nature of it. A worthy addition to my small schizophrenia/schizoaffective collection.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rae Simpson

    Minuteman. Flawed writing, but sections about her brother Tom's homelessness and family's helplessness in face of his schizophrenia very helpful. Tried NAMI, nothing helped. Father turned him out of home in hopes it would force him to take meds--sigh. Meds made him less psychotic but not less in pain because more aware of what he'd lost and couldn't do. Ultimately committed suicide at Alaska Psychiatric Institute with toilet paper and lotion plug to stop breathing. Nice phrases like the mix of s Minuteman. Flawed writing, but sections about her brother Tom's homelessness and family's helplessness in face of his schizophrenia very helpful. Tried NAMI, nothing helped. Father turned him out of home in hopes it would force him to take meds--sigh. Meds made him less psychotic but not less in pain because more aware of what he'd lost and couldn't do. Ultimately committed suicide at Alaska Psychiatric Institute with toilet paper and lotion plug to stop breathing. Nice phrases like the mix of sense and nonsense.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nyna Giles

    This book had a profound effect on me. At times, I felt her words so aptly mirrored my own feelings as the daughter of a mother with untreated mental illness. As a mental health advocate, my heroes are those who come forward and share their own unique views in a way that can shift thinking and really help others understand what it’s like to grow up with mental illness in the family. The audio book is beautifully narrated and the book itself is so well written.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This is a vibrant, multi-faceted, achingly beautiful memoir. I grew up in Anchorage and live here still and went to schools and played sports with one of the older sisters and this has bought back so many memories and examinations of said memories. The past is present all around, in the landscape and the people and the houses and the streets and the wild beyond them. There is so much in this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I related a lot to this book coming from someone who also deeply loves someone with a mental illness plagued by psychosis. Beautiful written and Sardy put words to feelings I couldn’t begin to describe.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Beautifully written.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kath West

    This was hard to read, but so worth it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Don’t have the faintest idea how to rate this book. It was a hard, slow read. So many of my thoughts racing down so many paths. But maybe that’s the reason to read it. Dunno.

  16. 4 out of 5

    sanne_reads

    3.5*

  17. 4 out of 5

    E B

    Gorgeously written Highly recommend

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sara Rauch

    The Edge of Every Day explores the lines of mental illness that course through Sardy's family tree: beginning with her mother, looping outward to her extended family, and ultimately zeroing in on her brother's brother's descent into delusions, his choice of homelessness, and ultimately, his suicide. She delves into the science behind mental illness, without ever losing sight of the deeply personal and emotional nature of watching a loved one's decline. The Edge of Every Day is a compassionate, e The Edge of Every Day explores the lines of mental illness that course through Sardy's family tree: beginning with her mother, looping outward to her extended family, and ultimately zeroing in on her brother's brother's descent into delusions, his choice of homelessness, and ultimately, his suicide. She delves into the science behind mental illness, without ever losing sight of the deeply personal and emotional nature of watching a loved one's decline. The Edge of Every Day is a compassionate, empathetic, moving, and beautifully written exploration of the toll mental illness takes on sufferers and their family members. Highly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kit

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jilly

  21. 4 out of 5

    Samina Rashiq

  22. 5 out of 5

    Erin Stewart

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carol Richey

  24. 5 out of 5

    Camille

  25. 4 out of 5

    Grace

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ehren

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sue Lunde

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jill

  29. 4 out of 5

    Malory

  30. 4 out of 5

    A. Correia

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