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The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia

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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 throug 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.


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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 throug 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.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paltia

    Marin Sardy’s story brought me to my knees. At this book’s end I wished for a place where we could sit across from each other, holding hands, and together in the stillness letting our tears flow. She has written a spellbinding and profoundly moving book of memories. The words she shares about her brother are unforgettably portrayed with lucidity, compassion and so much love. You can feel her aching loss. This book, in my opinion, will influence the way we look at schizophrenia. A must read for a Marin Sardy’s story brought me to my knees. At this book’s end I wished for a place where we could sit across from each other, holding hands, and together in the stillness letting our tears flow. She has written a spellbinding and profoundly moving book of memories. The words she shares about her brother are unforgettably portrayed with lucidity, compassion and so much love. You can feel her aching loss. This book, in my opinion, will influence the way we look at schizophrenia. A must read for anyone who has experienced the loss of a beloved sibling and still searches for answers to the question of what more could I have done? She’s left me with feelings of understanding, grace and hope.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 4 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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cady

    Interesting at times, but ultimately couldn't hold my attention with the challenging format that switches between vignettes so quickly. I can see what the author was doing, making the piece disjointed like a schizophenic mind. I got about 4/5 through this and quit, flipped ahead to the end and called it a day.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason Comely

    Arty but uneven Haunting and heart wrenching at times, bewildering and dull at others. There's a part about gymnastics that really stands out. Marin should write an entire book about it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Dienes

    i had trouble getting into this book at first—it’s written kind of oddly, and it’s really not what i expected. as i got to know marin, i became way more interested. i gave it five stars because when it’s good, it’s REALLY good.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Lamont

    A very hard book emotionally. A very good book intellectually. "Suicide as a complication of mental illness." Yes. So very, very much yes.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linh

    It very much read like a sketch. Even though parts of it was interesting, I was largely disoriented.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This book made me uncomfortable from beginning to end. That being said, I think more people should read and/or skim this content. It is harrowing yet it gives me greater understanding and empathy for the host of people who are affected by the debilitating effects of mental health issues. The writing is very fractured though and I still can't determine if that was intentional or accidental.

  12. 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

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rob Sassor

    Feeling fractured, and also more whole. Four stars.

  14. 5 out of 5

    B00knerds

    I really did not particularly like this book, the author’s voice, her observations and weirdly drawn conclusions from them, her pointless and useless information, the irrelevant information on her own life that didn’t fit into the main scheme. What even was the conclusion to this book? I don’t know. Quite a let down and glad to be done reading it. I do understand that she had gone through a lot and I so am not unsympathetic to her and her family. I did get a little more insight on schizophrenia I really did not particularly like this book, the author’s voice, her observations and weirdly drawn conclusions from them, her pointless and useless information, the irrelevant information on her own life that didn’t fit into the main scheme. What even was the conclusion to this book? I don’t know. Quite a let down and glad to be done reading it. I do understand that she had gone through a lot and I so am not unsympathetic to her and her family. I did get a little more insight on schizophrenia which was my goal for this read. However, as a simple minded human, the oddness and format was a bit too much for me. Is was disorienting for sure

  15. 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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    STEPHEN PLETKO

    XXXXX Schizophrenia: the shapeless thief XXXXX ”In my family, psychotic illness has threaded its way through four generations in a row…And trickling around the clear cases of mental illness is something more diffuse—scatterings of our genetic susceptibility. There is no single schizophrenia gene. Rather, what we have inherited is a complex vulnerability in the form of cocktail of mutations—hundreds or even thousands of rare alterations in genes that encode various brain proteins. Evidence sugges XXXXX Schizophrenia: the shapeless thief XXXXX ”In my family, psychotic illness has threaded its way through four generations in a row…And trickling around the clear cases of mental illness is something more diffuse—scatterings of our genetic susceptibility. There is no single schizophrenia gene. Rather, what we have inherited is a complex vulnerability in the form of cocktail of mutations—hundreds or even thousands of rare alterations in genes that encode various brain proteins. Evidence suggests that none of these mutations are, by themselves, pathological—that only particular combinations lead to the emergence of illness. But studies have shown that children, siblings, and parents of people with schizophrenia often have abnormalities in brain structure and cognitive deficits that parallel, in lesser severity, those of their ill loved ones.” The above quotation (in italics) comes from this well-written and brutally honest book by Marin Sardy. Her essays and criticism have appeared in many publications. Sardy also has been an arts editor and editor-in-chief. She has twice had her work listed among the year’s most notable essays in the publication “Best American Essays.” What is schizophrenia? It is a mental illness characterized by relapsing episodes of psychosis. Major symptoms include hallucinations (usually auditory), delusions, and disorganized thinking. Symptoms typically come on gradually, begin in young adulthood, and may never resolve. This book is three things: a biography, a family relationships story, and a schizophrenia story. These three things are (but not always) intermingled together. The biography is about the author and focuses most (but not all) of the time on her reactions to the mental illness going on around her and how this mental illness has affected her. I found some of the other biographical details to be tedious and wondered why they were even included in this book. This is a family relationships story. Key relationships involve the author’s grandmother, mother, and younger brother. After her brother begins exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia, the author focuses on him and unfortunately puts aside the story thread of her mother. This is a story of schizophrenia. This is the really interesting part of the book and I feel that the author gives some brilliant insights regarding this illness. Finally, be aware that this book is in large part composed of a group of individual essays that have been turned into a memoir. (This essays are listed on this book’s copyright page.) This could be the reason why the book seems disjointed. In conclusion, this was probably a difficult and demanding book to write considering the deeply personal subject. This book was both powerful and disturbing and suggests just how challenging it can be to regain balance after that balance has been lost. (2019; 28 chapters; main narrative 285 pages; acknowledgements; about the author) XXXXX

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tess

    THE EDGE OF EVERY DAY is a beautiful, and painful, memoir from Marin Sardy about the heartache and trauma of having family members diagnosed with schizophrenia. Told in essay form, Sardy’s writing cuts deep and leaves you breathless, while at the same time is a searing indictment of how people with mental illnesses are treated in this country. I went into it thinking it was about her mother’s struggle with the disease, but it ends up being much more about Marin’s brother Tom and the tragedy of t THE EDGE OF EVERY DAY is a beautiful, and painful, memoir from Marin Sardy about the heartache and trauma of having family members diagnosed with schizophrenia. Told in essay form, Sardy’s writing cuts deep and leaves you breathless, while at the same time is a searing indictment of how people with mental illnesses are treated in this country. I went into it thinking it was about her mother’s struggle with the disease, but it ends up being much more about Marin’s brother Tom and the tragedy of their relationship. I so felt for Tom, and Marin of course, and their story is the heart, and heartbreak, of the book. It is am important and humanizing read for anyone who knows those who struggle with loved ones with mental illness, or doesn’t know much about the subject. It’s not an easy read, by any means, but Marin makes the subject matter urgent and accessible through the structure of a memoir.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah B.

    This was a tough book to read but an important book to read as it speaks to the heartache, the enduring efforts of loved ones to help a family member with a chronic mental illness. While some of the detours she takes in her writing may seem superfluous and distracting, they parallel how a friend or family member may have to cope with the devastation and intransigent nature of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and seeing but not understanding why it takes a life and livelihood the way it doe This was a tough book to read but an important book to read as it speaks to the heartache, the enduring efforts of loved ones to help a family member with a chronic mental illness. While some of the detours she takes in her writing may seem superfluous and distracting, they parallel how a friend or family member may have to cope with the devastation and intransigent nature of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and seeing but not understanding why it takes a life and livelihood the way it does. Her writing flows and it is poignant. This book should be read by anyone wanting to learn more about the lives of real people and wanting to know what true love and empathy is.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fatema

    It's one thing to know the clinical implications of schizophrenia and a completely other thing to hear what it's like to be brought up by a schizophrenic mother and live alongside a schizophrenic brother. It was so fascinating to read about this and Marin's talented writing style allows you to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Although I enjoyed the chapters about schizophrenia, my favourite chapter was the one tackling grief; it was described in such a jarringly beautiful, lyrical manner It's one thing to know the clinical implications of schizophrenia and a completely other thing to hear what it's like to be brought up by a schizophrenic mother and live alongside a schizophrenic brother. It was so fascinating to read about this and Marin's talented writing style allows you to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Although I enjoyed the chapters about schizophrenia, my favourite chapter was the one tackling grief; it was described in such a jarringly beautiful, lyrical manner.

  20. 5 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.

  21. 4 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.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kailyn

    I read this for school to learn more about Schizophrenia and this book did not disappoint! Sardy did a beautiful job capturing her mother and brother's journeys. I was especially drawn to her brother's story and their relationship. The only thing I didn't quite like about the book was the chapter where Sardy goes back and visits her grandfather's previously owned building that his business was in. It dragged on for me and wasn't important to the overall story.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    An Alaskan woman’s mother and brother are schizophrenic. This is her journey of how she copes. It was kind of hard to read because it is written in fragments. It really is “sketches of schizophrenia”. Because of the fragments, I found it easy to put down. But also easy to pick back up again. Schizophrenia is sad. Her metaphors are helpful in explaining how it feels to love someone with schizophrenia. If you’d like to know what it’s like to have a loved one with schizophrenia, read this.

  24. 4 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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tamara Santos

    Beautifully written memoir. The chapters jump around in timing, style and subject matter. I suppose as a tactic to help convey how schizophrenia is such a challenging and disjointed illness to have, or in the case of the author, to witness in loved ones. I learned quite a bit about living with mental illness, and loving those who live with mental illness.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy Caimano

    A book so beautifully written, it is sometimes poetic. Yet the subject, a family, a real-life family, grappling with schizophrenia, does not appear to be a poetic subject. Thank you, Marin Sardy, for writing honestly, openly and so beautifully. Your research has given me information that I need. Your experience has given me understanding that has touched my heart.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Raven (devour-er of books)

    This book was gorgeous, I think the changes in prose style throughout the book really lent itself to the narrative. The story flowed smoothly and was a masterful statement of how schizophrenia touches the lives of people with the disorder and those who love those with the disorder. A very well done book that I would highly recommend

  28. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    A lyrical memoir written with a poet's sensibilities, a scientist's appreciation of the natural world, and a compassionate, loving view of mental illness in the family. The Audible version is very good.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anneke Alnatour

    This was a special one. I really know nothing about schizophrenia, except for what everyone else knows. This was insightful. Painful. And brutally honest. The desperation is clear. And the fact that there aren't really any plain solutions for people living with schizophrenia. Recommended.

  30. 4 out of 5

    John Madera

    Despite its occasional virtual signalling and cringe-inducing melodramatic cliffhangers, The Edge of Every Day is smart and startling, often beautiful, and distinguished by evocative lyricism and engaging play with form and structure.

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