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The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother's Suicide
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The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother's Suicide

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  239 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Award-winning novelist and poet Gayle Brandeis's wrenching memoir of her complicated family history and her mother's suicide

Gayle Brandeis's mother disappeared just after Gayle gave birth to her youngest child. Several days later, her body was found: she had hanged herself in the utility closet of a Pasadena parking garage. In this searing, formally inventive memoir, Gayle
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by Beacon Press
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Rene Denfeld
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't believe I haven't reviewed this book until now—I was lucky to read an advanced copy. As someone who lost multiple family members to suicide, I found this to be an outstanding memoir. Brandeis is a gifted writer, capturing the terror, the complexity, the grief of losing loved ones to suicide.
Leslie Lindsay
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Razor-sharp, raw, poetic memoir about mothers and daughters, suicide, mental illness, and grief.

Gayle Brandeis's mother disappeared shortly after Gayle gave birth to her youngest child. Several days later, her body was found hanging in the utility closet of parking garage of an apartment building for the elderly.

THE ART OF MISDIAGNOSIS is a gorgeous read about a less-glamorous time. Gayle is struggling with grief and heartache, as well as the soupy surreal time of postpartum. Gayle takes this d
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A brilliant and harrowing peek back through the author's childhood illness, exaggerated and fostered by her brilliant but mentally ill mother who ultimately dies by suicide. Brandeis writes with a poet's beauty and a journalist's keen observation, making herself vulnerable as she pieces together the threads of her mother's mind as it intersected with her own health and sense of self. A beautiful, insightful, powerful memoir.
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I read the first line, “After my mother hangs herself, I become Nancy Drew,” and didn’t look up until I was 80 pages in. I looked up and dove back in again. This memoir about Brandeis’ mother’s suicide and so much more is a work of art. The title comes from the title of a documentary film her mother worked on for years. Gayle and her sister Elizabeth were both sick as teenagers, their suffering exacerbated by doctors who couldn’t see what was really wrong with them. Meanwhile, neither their ...more
Susan DeFreitas
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too often, we ignore difficult emotions and hard conversations--until we have no choice but to confront them, which is what happened for Gayle Brandeis when her mother committed suicide. And while that's not a situation (thankfully) that many of us will ever face, the author's honest, moving, and at times even funny reckoning with her larger-than-life mother is something all of us can learn from. In giving ourselves permission to, in the unintentional humor of one of Brandeis’s relatives, “know ...more
Tim Cummings
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aula-pp4-gayle
This book is a bloodletting, soaked with emotion so palpable it feels like a gentle violence. It is gorgeously rendered by author Brandeis; a paean to the power of healing through writing.
Danette V
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a painful read, and I don’t know how she brought herself to share so much. But I do appreciate her candor and found so much of her journey interesting, and certain areas are just fascinating. Her writing is style is sophisticated and poetic, and I found her skill set combined with the often dark subject matter to be an interesting aspect in and of itself.
Susan Walker
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very good read not only about mental illness, but, on how to survive a family member's suicide.
Rivera Sun
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A strangely fascinating journey that grips you from the start and doesn't let go until you feel as if you know the whole family personally. The unraveling of her mother's (and her own) life yields insights for all of us. It took great courage to write this book, and share it with all of us. The story starts with her mother's suicide and takes you down the rabbit hole of mental health issues. Gayle Brandeis uses scorching honesty and her gift for words to open the story up layer by layer. Her sto ...more
Katie Devine
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A lyrical, searing memoir about sudden and devastating loss, this is one 2017 book not to be missed. Moving between the time surrounding her mother's suicide and a posthumous letter to her mother, Gayle Brandeis has drilled into the center of complicated maternal loss in her beautiful poet's prose. She has also inserted transcripts of a documentary her mother created surrounding medical misdiagnoses, offering necessary insight into her mother's mental instability, and explores motherhood (her th ...more
Romalyn Tilghman
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As an ardent fan of Gayle Brandeis' words, I pre-ordered the book and had it delivered on publication day. Then sat down and devoured it. The subject is difficult, no doubt about it, but in the end, this poignant memoir says far more about life than it does about death. Relationships are complex, as often "misdiagnosed" as the maladies of our bodies. As great writers do, the author captures the most specific details to underline universal truth, in this case the fine line between sanity and insa ...more
Lauralee Woodruff
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Actually a 3 and a half. Kind of a choppy read, slow going for me, but real and, perhaps because I'm a therapist, familiar.
Nancy Slavin
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read Brandeis' book in less than 24 hours. I was mesmerized by the story, the mother-daughter tensions and traumas, the writing, structure, self-exploration, and other relationships. A story that begins at the end - with a death - and somehow keeps me turning the pages even though I know what "happens," is truly a work of art. The other book about mothers and daughters where that page-turning up-all-night urgency happened for me was Ariel Gore's The End of Eve; it's appropriate, then, that Gor ...more
Lynn Pribus
When I saw two copies on the new book shelf, I figured it must be a well-reviewed book. although I'd never heard of it. It was a compelling, but uneasy book. about a writing teacher/published author dealing with her mother's suicide.

You know this from the start. The book braids her history of serious untreated mental health problems, a TV documentary the mother was producing dealing with underdiagnosed illnesses, and the daughter's past history and current dealing with the aftermath of the suici
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have had this book on my shelf for almost a year. A recent issue of O, The Oprah magazine had a section on suicide including input from survivors of attempted suicide. So, I thought this would be a good time to read this book and the timing was right.
Brandeis is an excellent writer. She manages to intersperse portions of her mother's documentary (with the same name as the book), portions of what is happening in the now, her reflections immediately following and in the months after her mother's
Pam Parker
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Lyrical language plus a daughter trying to understand her mother's suicide does not sound like the formula for a good read. But, it is in the hands of the right author. Gayle Brandeis leads the reader into her family dynamics, with three strong women -- her mother, Gayle and her sister. Her mother's untreated mental illness is the background noise as Brandeis explores the tangled threads of illness affecting each of them -- physical/mental, real, imagined, self-induced? The journey, though full ...more
Lauren DePino
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I saw Gayle Brandeis read from her memoir, The Art of Misdiagnosis, at the Last Bookstore recently. I bought the book that night and when I got home, I immediately reread the passage she had read that made me cry. I still do. It starts on page 183, in case you’re curious. Gayle’s writing is like music and her story is unforgettable. She’s weathered the effects of her mother’s mental illness with forgiveness and pureness of heart. There’s a lesson for all of us there about accepting people and lo ...more
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it
This was an incredibly tragic story of a mom who died by suicide and her daughter's search for meaning in her actions. Despite being an intense story, it felt disjointed - I wasn't always sure what one thing had to do with another and how all of the pieces fit together (or didn't). It was partially about physical health - both the author's mom's health and her own - and partially about mental health. And while these are inextricably bound, that wasn't always clear in this book. It was a sad read ...more
Woodstock Pickett
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
Fascinating story and a compelling read about a complicated relationship between mother and daughters. The author weaves into her story excerpts from a screenplay for an unfinished documentary her mother was working on at the time of her death. I found these insertions somewhat disruptive and I don't think I understand their presence in the larger book. Downrated to four stars because of my confusion on that issue
Dorothy Collins
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is riveting read about growing up with a mentally ill parent. Ms. Brandeis mother was obviously an intelligent and driven woman who was mentally ill but seemingly never diagnosed. The book details the extreme circumstances of the effects of her illness on her two daughters and Brandeis' coming to terms with the lose of her mother not only as a child due to her erratic behavior but also as an adult and new mother herself.
Jane Eaton Hamilton
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What if the best thing and the worst thing that can happen to a person happen in the same week? The memoirist's son is born and her mom commits suicide a week apart, and for Gayle and her family, nothing is unaltered. The Art of Misdiagnosis is a harrowing, searing book, as much for the beauty of Gayle's writing, which causes the text move into you like a weapon, and for its topic, a child's mournful cry for her disturbed mother.
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Friends, get this memoir. Get it because it's beautiful, because it's haunting, because it's truthful without being cruel. Get it because it will teach you how to do all these things in your writing and life, too.

I am a bit biased since I get to call Gayle friend, but this is one of the best memoirs I've ever read.
Clementine Ford
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I gave 4 stars because I think she did what she set out to do and did it beautifully. The last half flew by and I really could not stop reading.
My only issues were that the last few sections felt rushed and, at times, I found the structure distracting.
Highly recommend it though. Well worth your time.
Tracy McQuay
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Powerful memoir with an intimate and honest look into mental illness and the impact it has on a family. I loved the layering of narrative, letters to her mother, and excerpts from her mother’s documentary. Brandeis does not shy away from sharing her most personal stories nor does she use devices like humor or sarcasm to cover her vulnerability. Thank you, Gayle.
Susan Elizabetha
Jul 03, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I received a an advanced reading copy of this book through Goodreads. I didn't enjoy this book. It is a tragic and sad memoir of mental illness and suicide. That said, I got nothing from this book. And can't recommend this book.
Joyful Mimi
I almost did not share a review of this book. Because of my reference point as a psychologist and psychotherapist, I likely did not experience this read like most others. Its a sad story but I found myself mostly being frustrated. Enough said.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Riveting, a tender, ferocious, and engrossing story of surviving her mother's suicide. I’m not sure how Brandeis does it but she manages to write this heart-breaking memoir with care, humor, and many, many moments of transcendent grace.
Wendy Fontaine
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A painfully sad story about mother loss and mental illness, written in some of the most elegant language I've ever seen.
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a good book. Beautifully written, heartbreaking tale of a daughter with a delusional mother who commits suicide. Both of their struggles were so well rendered.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
2.5. Not to diminish a memoir that was obviously traumatic for her.
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Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne) and the novels The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), which won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction of Social Engagement (judged by Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, and contest founder Barbara Kingsolver), Self Storage (Ballantine), Delta Girls (Ballantine), and My Life with the Lincolns (Henry Holt) ...more