K's Reviews > The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness

The Quiet Room by Lori Schiller
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's review
May 02, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: memoirs, professionallit
Recommended to K by: Frumasara (her to-read list, actually)
Recommended for: Anyone with an interest in schizophrenia, not only mental health profesionals
Read in May, 2009

Many of us realize (occasionally, at least) that we take our physical health for granted, but does it ever enter our consciousness how much we take our psychological health for granted? Imagine being a perfectly normal young adult from a happy family and privileged background, popular and headed for success, and suddenly hearing voices that no one hears, frightening and extremely real-sounding, so that it becomes harder and harder to distinguish between what's real and what isn't. Gradually, you become distant from your friends and less functional in your life, ultimately doing things that land you in mental hospitals where you're convinced you don't belong, despite your confusing behavior and even more confusing mental state. This was Lori Schiller's story, as chronicled in her multiple-perspective memoir.

What The Bell Jar wasn't, this book was -- a real inside look at mental illness, a clear picture complete with the perspectives of not only the sufferer but her family, friends, and psychiatrist. For the first time, I felt like I might understand (if it's possible to ever truly understand) what it really feels like to hear those voices and have them take over your life; how classic schizophrenic symptoms like detachment from other people and bizarre self-destructive behavior develop from the inside; and most importantly, how someone who seems perfectly healthy and functional can suddenly manifest this disease, frightening everyone around them but most of all themselves. I got an inside look into what it feels like to be in that hospital, how difficult it is to take medications which don't seem to help that much and come with awful side effects, and the uphill battle of coming to terms with your diagnosis before you can even start to improve.

I debated the fifth star because I thought the last chapter describing her recovery on clozapine was a bit rushed after all that illness, and because I couldn't help wondering at the authenticity of all the perspectives -- this memoir seemed to work a little too well, and I was surprised that all the various family members were so willing to share their conveniently eloquent perspectives (of course, it could simply be that the ghostwriter did a fabulous job). But ultimately, this book was powerful, well-done, and taught me a lot so I decided to assign all five stars. I give Lori and her family a great deal of credit for being willing to share their stories, and I felt that this was one memoir that was worth reading.
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Reading Progress

04/29/2009 page 23
04/29/2009 page 66
22.92% "This is cool -- a multiple-perspective memoir. How often do you have that?"
04/30/2009 page 141
48.96% "Really gripping."
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by M (new)

M I was just talking to Sarah about this, because she had a schizo patient who was insisting on not coming in to the hospital, and I said that one of my favorite insights in I KNow This Much is True is when Dr Patel points out to Dominick that it must be so stressful to feel like the fate of the world is up to you, as schizo Thomas feels. It was such a good point, that this is the reality, not something that the person knows is not.
I will check this one out, I could use a good and informative read.

message 2: by K (new) - rated it 5 stars

K I think you'll like it. I found that it made the experience of being schizophrenic, as well as being related to someone who is, a lot more empathizeable. I forgot that line from I Know This Much Is True -- good point.

Jonathan Brill I agree that one of the real contributions of this book is the sharing of multiple perspectives of family members and how Lori's illness affected her family. This kind of perspective is rare. Pruchno's "Surrounded By Madness" is another wonderful memoir about mental illness that shows the effects of mental illness on family but, unfortunately for Pruchno (but perhaps informatively for most), it does not have the fairy tale ending that The Quiet Room and almost all mental illness memoirs do. Rather, it tells the tale of serious mental illness for the vast majority, not the exceptional few.

message 4: by K (new) - rated it 5 stars

K Thanks, Jonathan. I'll see if I can get hold of "Surrounded by Madness." I also enjoyed "The Center Cannot Hold" which is also an interesting memoir about schizophrenia.

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