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Is There No Place on Earth for Me?

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,031 ratings  ·  88 reviews
"Sylvia Frumkin," a highly intelligent young girl, became a schizophrenic in her late teens and spent most of the next seventeen years in and out of mental institutions. Susan Sheehan, a talented reporter, followed "Sylvia" for almost a year talking with and observing her, listening to her monologues, sitting in on consultations with doctors - even for a period sleeping in ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 12th 1983 by Vintage (first published April 1st 1982)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  1,031 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, nyc
Just SO good.

Imagine being passionate and brave enough to say - “Think I’ll spend a year of my life just following a woman with schizophrenia wherever she goes; staying in the psych hospital with her as people bite and scream all night, watching the effects of major tranquilizers, living in her dysfunctional as hell family when she’s not know, Fun!”

I first read this book when I was an Internal Medicine resident at Mount Sinai in New York and had a one year old child. That’s ho
Tom Quinn
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I confess I first approached this book with a voyeur's curiosity. The foreward, written by psychiatrist Robert Coles, Ph.D., quickly upbraided me for seeking titillation and thrills with its firm reminder that patients in psychiatric care are human beings:
Miss Frumkin turns out to be an extremely troubled person whose mind doesn't work, in certain respects, the way most other minds work. The labels psychiatrists use to set Miss Frumkin apart, the diagnostic classifications applied to her, are me
Susan Sheehan (journalist) made a study in the 1980s of Sylvia Frumkin, a mental patient diagnosed with schizophrenia who was hospitalized multiple times at various locations in and around New York. She spent most of her later teenage years (1970s) and early adulthood in and out of hospitals, dealing with auditory hallucinations, disorganized thoughts, violent and anti-social behaviors, and a host of other problems brought on by her illness. Sheehan interviewed the patient (Miss Frumkin), family ...more
Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in Psychology, Institutions, Family Relations, Schizophrenia
Excellent inside look at how and why the system often fails the mentally and emotionally disturbed people it's suppose to be helping. Sylvia was shuffled in and out of facilities, her medication was changed almost every time she entered a new facility. So many of these doctors basically threw a dart blindly at the question of medication. Only one doctor ever took the time to read her treatment history to properly assess her medication needs. I felt pity for her parents and her sister. Although I ...more
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a poignant picture of the Mental Health system in the late '70s and early '80s. A young girl and her family struggle with schizophrenia. How she was misdiagnosed and not treated correctly. The stigmatism that comes with mental health. It hits close to home, having a brother who has a mental health disease and spent much of his young adult life in a State Hospital. Hopefully, the mental health system has corrected the problems that occurred in that time. I still see people with mental he ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Marvelously researched and riveting from start to finish. They don't make nonfiction like this anymore. A gripping and heart-rending portrayal of one woman's nearly lifelong struggle with schizophrenia. ...more
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
It was interesting to look at psychiatric treatment and how ideas about inpatient versus outpatient treatment evolved with the introduction of newer antipsychotics. The main character's experience of constantly going in and out of hospitals is still a problem that lasts today despite newer atypicals. I do wish the author had put the story in chronological order as it got rather confusing when the story started at a certain point and then went back in time and then went forward again. Also, I wis ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Clear a spot on your calendar because this book will completely absorb you for 48 hours! A writer follows the frustrating and jagged path of a schizophrenic woman through the New York mental health system over decades. Originally appearing as serial articles, the text was never given a vigorous re-edit, so the chronology is a little confusing. However, I think this enhances the merry-go-round heartbreak of this woman's life: institutional admissions, bad drug therapy, huffy exits, broken beginni ...more
May 13, 2020 marked it as z-did-not-finish
Shelves: nonfiction
[1982] Another one for the DNF shelf. It's time. It's been on my shelf since I started it in August of 2017 and got about 125 pages in. The material is right up my alley, and it's a great piece of journalistic writing, but ultimately it was just too detailed. It's a super thorough case study, but there was just too much minutiae for me to want to stick with it for another 200 pages. ...more
Nguyen Vy
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a detailed account of a bright but unfortunate schizophrenic. Like many other stories about people with this mental illness, this one is very uncomfortable to read and reminds us very much of what we, as more mentally well-off human beings, all take for granted. Perhaps what is the most unsettling for me to see is how most of the psychiatrists, therapists, and high professionals in this field were so confused, inconsistent, and insensitive in dealing with schizophrenic patients who were ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a good piece of journalism, I just don't personally care for a journalistic take on the life of a mentally ill person. Obviously Maxine Mason consented to this publication and, according to Sheehan, seemed happy with it, but the third-person perspective with a completely obscured narrator was just bizarre. It is a very honest look at her life and the conditions which she lived in, which I appreciate, but I did not find it empathetic by any means. It consistently focuses on the violence o ...more
Arwen Downs
Mar 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Despite the absolutely awful cover art for this book, the writing itself is wonderful. The narrative focuses on the "story" of Sylvia (it is true, so it's not really a story, since it's her life), who is one part normal twenty-something girl, one-part sad mental health patient, and one part Little Edie (guess which parts are the most entertaining to read.) However, Sheehan (who was a reporter when she undertook the writing of the book), also writes about the hospital Sylvia spends most of her ti ...more
This isn't an entertaining story, and I can't say that I enjoyed reading it, but it will stay with me. Sheehan has written a detailed account of 30-year-old 'Sylvia's' life with uncontrolled schizophrenia, focusing on the years 1978-1980 with added details about her earlier years. 'Sylvia' spent a significant portion of her adult life at Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital in NY.

I did a google search to update 'Sylvia's' status and learned that she died in 1994 when she was about 46 years old.

I'd lik
Mark Syron
Jun 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
This is a book about a troubled young woman who suffered from schizophrenia. Going in and out of NY hospitals Sylvia Frumkin stumbles through life and we see this struggle between her insanity ad normally. It is a difficult book to read but also insisting on how badly hospitals are ad how one in her situation can only ask, Is There No Place On Earth For Me. I know I have asked that same question when it comes down to me. And the journalist Susan Sheehan following around Miss Frumkin seems to mak ...more
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
This was an incredibly insightful look at schizophrenia and its treatment in the 60s/70s. I really appreciated Sheehan's matter-of-fact presentation, and the meticulous detail she gave on, well, everything. It did make it a bit tedious, but makes this a fantastic resource for both psychology students and creative writers (both categories I belong to :]). I do wish we'd gotten more of an understanding of how Sheehan got the information, and her place in Sylvia's life. I think it was a good choice ...more
Lisa Oliver
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is a journey into the life of a woman suffering from schizophrenia. Susan Sheehan documented the tumultuous life of Sylvia Frumkin in a series of articles that appeared in The NewYorker and was later made into the book. Sylvia's story is a sad and eyeopening account of life with a severe mental illness. All through the book I kept hoping for a "cure" or some way for Sylvia to manage this illness in a way to improve her quality if life - even after having read the book I purchased the N ...more
Sep 21, 2012 rated it liked it
I learned a lot, though I'm sure the book is dated. Certainly the writing style is old-fashioned, sometimes to the point of confusion. For some reason I find a conversation between "Miss Frumkin," "Mrs. Frumkin" and "Mr. Frumkin" rather harder to follow than a conversation between Sylvia, Harriet and Irving. The book also jumps back and forth between time periods-- this I attribute to the fact that it started life as a series of articles. It would be interesting to know if/how mental health trea ...more
Sep 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Sheehan captures loose associations in a way very few ever have. This is a must read for anyone who wants to know what treatment for mental illness was like in one large hospital in the 1970's. It is an absolutely wonderful portrayal of active psychosis. ...more
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The supervisor of volunteer services’ elegant Tudor house had been beautifully decorated for the holidays. The hotel residents were greeted, assisted in taking off their coats, and escorted to the recreation room, where they were seated at small tables. A dinner of barbecued chicken and barbecued ribs, salad, rolls, apple cider, and a selection of cakes, cookies, and pies was served to them. The hotel residents ate in silence. After dinner, they went upstairs and sat down in the living room, wh ...more
Katie Matsen
Mar 27, 2017 is currently reading it
A true mastery of journalism, Susan Sheehan documented and encased the story of schizophrenic Sylvia Frumkin in Is There No Place On Earth For Me?. The book was published by Random House Inc. in New York in 1983. It is the First Vintage Books Edition, has 333 pages, and retails for the price of $16.95. In this book you are taken through roughly two and a half years of Sylvia Frumkin life as she struggled through her schizophrenia, being in and out of Creedmore Hospital which is a mental institu ...more
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, mental-health
Wow wow wow.

This book is heavy. The author gives exquisite detail of the main character’s psychiatric history. It’s sad that she had to go to so many doctors, each of which put her on different doses of different medicines.

Reading this book really put a lot of things in perspective for me. Mainly, the reality that so many advancements in the realm of mental health have been made in the 2000s, including psychiatry and the general public’s willingness to talk about/accept mental illness as a real
Kaitlyn lovell
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting read. The formatting was a little odd with the flip back and forth in her life. The journal style writing also made it different than other books I’ve read in a similar style. Some parts of the book I found very informational even though it’s an older book. I had never heard about insulin comas as therapy and was interested to read about it. I was also interested in the conditions of the ward and was shocked at how things used to be. Parts of Sylvias life also sucked me i ...more
Dec 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read The Collected Schizophrenias a while back (it is absolutely wonderful) and became interested in the ways in which people who suffer from schizophrenia are represented in literature and journalism. I also have a close friend who worked in a psychiatric hospital for a period of time and I was curious to see how many similarities to his experience I would find in the book.

This was an excellent read that establishes a baseline understanding for what in-patient and out-patient care looked like
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Is There No Place on Earth for Me? chronicles the life of a schizophrenic young woman and her family. Sheehan not only delves into the absolute havoc that mental illness renders on families, but she also looks closely at how mental health professionals treat the mentally ill. The result is a searing account of the travesty that is the American mental health care system. While it's true that Sheehan wrote this book in the 80's, not much has changed (unfortunately).

This book is a must read for any
Ralph Kleinman
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've read this book several times, and it never fails to move me. Poor Sylvia Frumkin, with all of her talent and potential, never managed to live her own life with any happiness and success. The book is brilliant, hard-hitting, beautifully written, and filled with empathy. It's not surprising that it won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.

Perhaps only Susan Sheehan in the end cared about Sylvia, and maybe even loved her. If so, lucky Sylvia, and lucky Susan Sheehan. And lucky us, to be witness t
Mar 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Susan Sheehan produces a remarkable piece of journalism about one woman with severe schizophrenia in the 1970s and 1980s. She writes with clarity and dispassion about the mismanagement of psychotropic drugs, the awful state of public mental health hospitals, and the overwhelming stress on staff and family members. This is a must-read for anyone in the social services profession. It is heartbreaking and eye-opening. One can only hope that treatment has improved for the mentally ill since the time ...more
Mar 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is honest about what it's like to witness psychosis, and the struggle to find somewhere that can properly support someone with schizophrenia. The book feels repetitive, because the author wants you to understand how frustrating repeated episodes can be. The author doesn't shy away from the truth of the matter, either. Mental illnesses can be devestating, frustrating, and lonely, yet the author, friend to the real-life person the book is based off, is able to see the person behind the i ...more
Nathalie Kohlman
May 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

i had high expectations because it won a pulitzer. I was disappointed that it read like a doctors log. It got tedious. from the very beginning i kept reading hoping it would either get better or it would end. I have to say it was quite vivid in its detail, but the subject of the book wasnt a character i really cared for- she was just a mental patient who fought and bit people and caused more pain than joy. I didn't find the main character to have any redeeming qualities so it was quite hard to r
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This epic work of journalism is chock full of details about one particular woman with schizophrenia and her life in and out of psych hospitals in the 1970s. The style is very "straight" journalism, which I tend to not find interesting, but I did learn some things I didn't know about the history of the mental health system in the U.S. While a lot has changed since this book's publication, a lot—like funding shortages and fragmentation of care—has not. ...more
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Susan Sheehan does some amazing reporting on the double tragedy of a woman with severe schizophrenia in a family that cannot help and indeed exacerbates her unfortunate predicament. These two factors make the afflicted woman way worse off in my opinion. Fine writing - journalism mastered to a very high degree.
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“When you know all of those things exist for other people but not for you, sometimes it’s very hard to endure the not having.” 2 likes
“Miss Frumkin rummaged through her bag looking for a spoon. She seemed to be aware that there was no spoon in the bag, but she insisted on rummaging anyway. Finding no spoon, she took out her toothbrush and began to eat the yogurt with the toothbrush. Miss O’Reilly laughed at her. Miss Frumkin didn’t seem to mind. “They laughed at Bell and they laughed at Edison,” she said, throwing the toothbrush into the wastebasket. She finished eating the yogurt with her fingers.” 0 likes
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