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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hurry Down Sunshine

Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg
Reason for Reading: In Their Shoes Reading Challenge
Rating: 4.5/5

Hurry Down Sunshine, according to the dust cover "tells the story of the extraordinary summer when, at the age of fifteen, Michael Greenberg's daughter was struck mad."

It starts when Sally is struck with a vision on the streets of Greenwich that ultimately leads to her being brought home by the police, and soon it becomes obvious the only choice left is a psychiatric ward.

This is the story of the sweltering summer that Sally spends there, and the effect on Greenberg, his wife, Sally's mother, brother and grandmother. How do you convince a family member who has not witnessed your daughter's crack up that she really does belong in the psychiatric ward? What do you say when medications have thrown her so off balance she can't concentrate? When she tells everyone you've locked her up?

Greenberg's memoir is lyrical and honest. He describes the confusion, the frustration of dealing with a mental illness. The desire to believe they are not really sick, the haunting question of whether or not you are somehow to blame, wanting, so desperately for your loved one to be lucid again.

"Tell me what I'm doing here," she says, puzzled and child-like, her eyes as black as malachite, magnified and sharp."

"You're here to feel well again."

"I've never felt better. I'm perfectly fine."

"You haven't been acting fine."

"Everyone's acting, Father. You most of all."

"Sally, you're sick." I hear the flat insistence in my voice.

"Sick. Mmm. Does it make you safer to think of me that way?"

"We just want you to be well again."

"Your father doesn't mean that you're not yourself right now," says Robin. "He means, you're here, in the hospital to... recover."

Sally seizes the word. "Recover," she repeats. "But what have I lost? Or am I someone you want to cover up again. Someone you want to put a lid on." Her voice hardens: the dreaded inquisitorial tone. "You've always wanted to lock me up, Father. Now you've succeeded. You must be very satisfied with yourself."

Greenberg writes without sentimentality, or excessive emotion. He doesn't have to, the simple facts of what happened, the dialogue tell us how difficult the experience was. My only regret is that the novel ended before I was quite ready. In my eagerness to read, I felt that it was abrupt, although he did give a bit of a postscript to explain what Sally had done since the summer he describes in the book. Still, this one is highly recommended.

1 comment:

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Hmm . . . I think I passed up an opportunity to read this one. Sounds interesting.