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A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia

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Dazzlingly, daringly written, marrying the thoughtful originality of Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts with the revelatory power of Neurotribes and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, this propulsive, stunning book illuminates the experience of living with schizophrenia like never before.

Writer Sandy Allen did not know their uncle Bob very well. As a child, Sandy had been told Bob was “crazy,” that he had spent time in mental hospitals while growing up in Berkeley in the 60s and 70s. But Bob had lived a hermetic life in a remote part of California for longer than Sandy had been alive, and what little Sandy knew of him came from rare family reunions or odd, infrequent phone calls. Then in 2009 Bob mailed Sandy his autobiography. Typewritten in all caps, a stream of error-riddled sentences over sixty, single-spaced pages, the often-incomprehensible manuscript proclaimed to be a “true story” about being “labeled a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic,” and arrived with a plea to help him get his story out to the world.

In A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia, Sandy translates Bob’s autobiography, artfully creating a gripping coming-of-age story while sticking faithfully to the facts as he shared them. Lacing Bob’s narrative with chapters providing greater contextualization, Sandy also shares background information about their family, the culturally explosive time and place of their uncle’s formative years, and the vitally important questions surrounding schizophrenia and mental healthcare in America more broadly. The result is a heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious portrait of a young man striving for stability in his life as well as his mind, and an utterly unique lens into an experience that, to most people, remains unimaginable.

Called “an act of radical empathy” by Anne Fadiman and “a truly original piece of work” by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise is a propulsive, stunning book that’s poised to change conversation about schizophrenia and mental illness generally.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 23, 2018

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Sandy Allen

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 105 reviews
Profile Image for Jules.
12 reviews
January 30, 2018
NOTE: I received an advance reader copy from the publisher at a conference this fall. Quotes are taken from the advance reader copy, and not the finished book.

This book is exploitative, self-serving, classist, and, in my opinion, exceptionally poorly-written. Absent their own creative ideas, and facing the impending writing requirement of their MFA program at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, the author appropriates the novel their mentally ill uncle mailed to them and "translates" his story, posturing the author as a savior who shared his story with the world. But as with most 'savior' stories, the intent is one of self-aggrandizement and self-absolution.

The chapters alternate between Sandra Allen's own dismal narration, and Allen's "translation" of their uncle's story (denoted by the use of Courier New typeface). The writing is lazy, lacks introspection, and ultimately attempts to absolve the author of any guilt they might hold after capitalizing on their uncle's mental illness-fueled creativity and lack of self-agency.

As an example of the unabashed classism that appears throughout the book: "He served us shrimp that had been arranged on a black plastic tray by someone at a supermarket, and a box of Wheat Thins. I felt terrible that he'd gone out of his way to buy us these things, and I thanked him."

And another: "I wanted to ignore it the way you ignore a urine-soaked pile of coats on a sidewalk or a man on a park bench screaming obscenities."

And lack of self-reflection: "A slur cut across the page like razor wire. I'd had no idea that Bob, or anyone in my family, was so explicitly racists." [sic]

And self-absorbed narration:
"Many people have asked me why I did this. Why did I choose to write about Bob? What interested me so much about his story?"
"The more interesting question, I think, isn't why I began writing about my uncle but why I kept going."

Perhaps the most telling detail that sheds light on the author's intent, is that Allen's uncle's name does not appear as co-author. In my opinion, it is a reflection of the author's self-centered approach to the world that, absent their own creative ideas, they would exploit the fantastical and creative outputs of someone with schizophrenia for personal gain. This is not a mix tape. There is nothing brave about appropriation. It is regrettable that this man's creative work is to be published in this way.
Profile Image for Lauren.
6 reviews2 followers
February 1, 2018
Holy hell, this book is so ableist and exploitative. I don’t know what Scribner was thinking when they published it. The notion that it’s okay for relatives of people with mental illnesses (and other disabilities) to appropriate their stories and make it all about themselves like this needs to end. The fact that Allen couldn’t even be bothered to list her uncle as a coauthor says enough on its own, but I’m so irked by this book and all the undeserved praise it had received here and elsewhere that I’ll spell out my specific issues with it.

tl;dr: the author, Sandra Allen, received an autobiography from her uncle, who reportedly has schizophrenia and asked her to help him reach an audience. Fair enough, I guess, but her condescending “translation” of his words undermined the whole endeavor. First of all, schizophrenia is not a foreign language, and to treat it as such perpetuates negative stereotypes against people who have psychotic disorders. Second, it becomes increasingly clear throughout the work that Allen had very minimal contact with her uncle as she wrote it, and it often appeared that she was both actively avoiding him and semi-consciously aware that he may not approve of the editorial changes she made. Which brings me to my next point.

The narrative reads as though she ran his writing through the “delicate sensibilities of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop” machine, taking away his voice and rendering it yet another sententious exercise in literary wankery (like almost everything else that comes out of IWW, let’s be honest). We get it, he’s racist and homophobic and that’s a problem, but watering down and censoring him wasn’t the best way to address that. Same goes for his spelling, punctuation, etc., which was “translated” into standard, grammatically correct English, excepting a few words and phrases which were left as-is “for emphasis” (unfortunately, this made the Allen come off as even more condescending than she already did).

Allen’s shallow understanding of schizophrenia, it’s treatment, and the American mental health system further undermines the work. She repeatedly claims that she’s read a bunch of books about psychosis and mental health and spoken to doctors, experts, and people with psychotic disorders, but she never cites any sources, peer-reviewed or otherwise, nor does she name any of the individuals or organizations she spoke with. This is really, really problematic from both an ethical standpoint (arguably falling into plagiarism) as well as a clinical one. If you’re going to write about mental illnesses as a layperson, you need more than a superficial understanding of diagnostics, treatment, and the mental health field. As someone who is a mental health professional, Allen’s understanding of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders is dangerously superficial and outdated. This, too, contributes to misunderstanding, stigma, and ableism.

Were it better-reasearched and a truly collaborative effort, it could have been a valuable contribution to the recovery memoir genre. As it is, it’s yet another problematic “look at how hard it is to deal with my crazy family member” book, which there are already far too many of. I don’t recommend this book at all.
Profile Image for Doug.
1,980 reviews701 followers
January 6, 2018
This book had potential, but unfortunately, there are far too many elements that just don't work. Others have mentioned the problems with appropriation and filtering Bob's story through the author's sensibility, and while those are certainly relevant, the larger issues are that the story is repetitious, uninteresting, clichéd, and written in a style I can only call 'high school diary'. While I assumed (and had hoped) that Bob would tell his own story, with an occasional footnote or clarification, there are very few citations from Bob's original manuscript, and those are predominantly fragmentary and crudely rendered - which call into question large sections of the book which detail entire conversations and minute details that don't seem to have any basis. Also, when the author tries to insert useful background material, for example on the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley in the early '70's, or the history of psychotropics, it seems drily cobbled from Wikipedia entries. Being the exact same age as Bob, and growing up in the same area (I have even been to the facility on La Casa Via in my hometown of Walnut Creek that figures prominently), I was hoping I could find a connection at least on that level. It's a sad story, but one gleans virtually no new insights into mental illness from it.

My thanks anyway to Netgalley and Scribner for providing me with an advanced reading copy, in exchange for this (brutally) honest review.
Profile Image for Valerity (Val).
955 reviews2,741 followers
January 10, 2018
This is a different look at a life of mental illness told in kind of a unique way, as it was typed over a long time by the man with the illness. Then much later the manuscript was mailed without warning to his niece who'd recently finished college and was starting out as a writer. She was floored by getting it at first, thinking it was just bizarreness and put it aside. Then she eventually took a deeper look and spent some time going through it and just reading the story. She was completely pulled into it of course before long because this was her family member, and they did have some shared memories and fondness. She was curious about what might have happened to cause him to be the way he was, or to have helped perhaps to make him that way. Many of the things she read about that Uncle Bob went through were awful, he was already having problems when his parents split and neither seemed to be want to be bothered with him at the time. He was dumped at a mental hospital by his father at just 16 years old and not even told what the place was so his dad could go off to Lake Tahoe with his most recent new girlfriend for a couple of weeks of childfree fun. His father just drove away, not even telling him why he was there, or if he was coming back for him.

Bob spends years, and then decades in and out of facilities and on different combinations of medications with varying degrees of success. When they have it dialed in right, he does really, really, well, but that's all too rare. When they have it not so right, he is usually overmedicated and in zombie-like condition. When he goes completely off the medication, that's when he really goes off the rails and usually ends up in serious trouble, like jail or winds up in the hospital, where they have to sedate him and get him calmed down again.

The author starts checking the various stories out and writing, then continuing to write. Before she was finished, much time had passed. Years. And before she knew it, Bob had passed away while there were still things she wanted to ask questions about. She had interviewed almost all of the people in the book who were still alive, to verify what she could of what he had written about. I'd recommend this for anyone with an interest in mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar, that type of thing. I found it to be a fascinating read. Thanks for reading.

An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley for my review by NetGalley, the author Sandra Allen Scribner, and the publisher Scribner.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
52 reviews2 followers
February 26, 2018
Lots of others have mentioned this book's level of appropriation, so I won't go into that.

What I will go into is the writing. I think what Allen set out to do (transcribe the writings of her Uncle's life story as a person with schizophrenia) was a difficult task that could have been handled differently. With the author's mentions of her writing skill inserted within the actual book several times, I was expecting some sort of Earth-shattering prose setting up a beautiful, heartbreaking story (indeed, as the author conveyed that her Uncle's life was sad). Instead Allen gives us a summary of the pages sent to her by her uncle seemingly devoid of emotion. It read to me more as a news article than a story about someone's life.

One reviewer thought that Allen should have approached the "transcription" of her Uncle's book by publishing it as it was written and used footnotes to build upon the writing by providing context. I agree.

Another reviewer mentioned that her Uncle's name should have been listed as a co-author. I also agree.
Profile Image for Tara.
84 reviews
April 14, 2018
The author is naive. The difficulty of caring for an adult with a chronic severe mental illness usually falls to the family members and, as would be expected, the person with the mental illness is conflicted about his/her dependency. The man’s story is authentic but the author’s biases are blatant and harmful to those who are laboring under the burden of understanding the illness. The story is true and typical of a person who has schizophrenia but the author’s ignorance is unfortunate.
Profile Image for Carrie Poppy.
305 reviews1,089 followers
August 19, 2021
Loved it. So glad the author was brave enough to get it done. It’s so carefully protective of the truth and of the ambivalence of many accounts thereof. It could have been many times more bloated, but it has a constant tone of humility and economy.

Only complaint was that a lot of stuff was summarized (mostly conversations with experts) that I would have liked to read more literally — dialogue and names — than generally. But that said, the summaries struck me as in-line with the general medical community’s position on those issues.

Absolutely wonderful that Uncle Bob’s story got out.

Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,849 reviews360 followers
September 4, 2017
A big thank you to Sandra Allen, Scribner, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

First I'd like to tell Allen I appreciate her courage in telling her uncle's story. Sadly if he had cancer, or was paralyzed, or something along those lines, he would have been accepted by society; but to say, "my uncle was schizophrenic", most people's immediate reaction is repugnance and fear. I'm bipola, which falls under the same diagnostic umbrella. I was finally diagnosed about ten years ago. And I am certainly not ashamed. But people harass me mercilessly. Well, either that or constantly criticize my life choices many of which are made compulsively. Reading this book made me feel so lucky that I can experience treatment of the year 2017, not the year 1972. What an amazing difference that amount of years has made. His stays in hospital sounded utterly traumatic. I don't see how they didn't all lead to complete dis pair.
It was obvious that regardless of any arguments or loss of contact he loved his family very much, and he was so fortunate to have you, Allen, to tell his tragic story. It could start the healing process for thousands out there just like him.
February 17, 2018
My feelings about this book are complicated. I picked this book up because I work with lots of clients who have schizophrenia, and I thought it would be interesting to hear someone with schizophrenia speak in his own words about his experiences with the mental health system and life more generally, when usually those words are filtered through clinical language and diagnoses. But what the author doesn't tell you until the end of the book is that she never took the opportunity to run anything about this book by her uncle, whose story it really is. And she visited him only twice during the time she was writing the book. To me, that is an enormous red flag, and problematizes the already tricky task of telling someone else's story. Moreover, I was also surprised how little the author pulled from the source material (the quotes she uses are not usually that substantive and quite short). So you really don't get to hear Bob's voice too often. Even the choice of fonts, I thought, reflected something negative about Bob's writing versus her own, and that bothered me.

I think the criticisms of its ableism and writing are important and valid, but I also found it interesting and worth reading. I only wish Bob would have gotten the chance to tell us how he'd have liked the story told.
Profile Image for Barbara White.
Author 6 books1,112 followers
July 30, 2021
A KIND OF MIRRACULAS PARADISE is a unique work of nonfiction about mental illness.

When Sandra Allen was studying for her MFA in writing, her Uncle Bob, a hermit she barely knew, mailed her the story of his life as a paranoid schizophrenic. The single-spaced manuscript was typed in all caps with run-on sentences and typos, and contained a plea to help get his story out into the world.

She tried to ignore the manuscript, but something sucked her into the world of the family member she’d grown up believing to be crazy—the person who was missing from the wall of family photographs. What she discovered was an intense, heartbreaking, and at times hilarious story of mental hospital stays, busking and life in a band, failed jobs, and a religious awakening. There were stories of hallucinations, missing days, and paranoia, but also stories of friends and neighbors who made a difference.

Bob was first institutionalized at fourteen. His dad and stepmom told him they were going on a trip. He translated that to mean a family vacation, not a locked psyche ward where he was injected with massive amounts of heavy-duty drugs without explanation.

Many of the chapters are in Bob’s voice, complete with typos, although Sandra has changed the narrative from first person to (mainly) third. Interspersed are chapters of her journey with the manuscript, and how she fact-checked incidents with living family members and resurrected early memories of her own. She concludes that many of the stories she didn’t at first believe were, indeed, true, and by the end, decides he typed in all caps due to his failing eyesight.

Ultimately, the book provides a window into the treatment of schizophrenia in the 60s and 70s and highlights the still-present stigma. When Sandra reveals her concerns about how the family will react to the book, I understand. My aunt was also diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, and I grew up under that code of family silence.

Bob died without knowing that his story had become public, but I’m glad his voice can finally be heard.
Profile Image for K.K. Wootton.
Author 3 books15 followers
April 3, 2020
Sort of astounding. Sandy Allen responded to the call of her family member, Bob, diagnosed as "schizophrenic" who deeply wished that his story be told. With tremendous care and consideration, Allen gives us Bob's story, which includes painful -- and joyous -- memories of his experiences, including being committed to mental institutions, working as an assistant to a seventy-year-old janitor, and falling in love. Bob's life is extraordinary but also seems representative of the lives of many deemed mentally ill. And as horrific as Bob's life sometimes seems, as Allen points out, it could have been far worse had he come from a poor and/or marginalized community.

Allen writes that process of creating the book changed her perspective. I believe it would change the perspective of almost anyone who reads it. It's a beautiful call -- perhaps initially from Bob, and then from Sandra -- to listen to and find compassion for those we don't immediately understand.
Profile Image for Stephanie (aka WW).
781 reviews9 followers
September 24, 2020
DNFing at 70%. The audiobook expired before I finished and I had zero interest in re-checking. The uncle’s schizophrenia story bored me silly.
Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,221 reviews208 followers
February 8, 2018
What a fascinating book! Sandra Allen takes the reader on a journey of discovery about her uncle Bob, a man she did not know well, except through other relatives who described him as "crazy." When Bob sends her his writings, she decides to take it as a challenge to decipher his story, interviewing family members and learning all she can about Schizophrenia. If you are interested in the treatment of those with mental or emotional challenges, this is a great book to try. -- Louisa A.
Profile Image for Blair Hodges .
508 reviews76 followers
June 29, 2018
Bob was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia as a teenager. Later in life he took it upon himself to write his life story. He typed it in ALL CAPS covering about sixty manuscript pages. He wanted to get it out there so he sent it to his niece who he knew was working on an MFA. At first she wanted to avoid it altogether. But she eventually found herself drawn in to the sometimes incomprehensible manuscript. She ultimately decided to translate the book, so to speak. The chapters alternate between Sandra channeling her uncle's voice and Sandra talking about the process of writing the book, of learning more about mental health care, of discovering how radically different various members of her family--Bob's family--felt about Bob and his book.

Sandra raises interesting questions about the treatment of mental illnesses in the United States, about the labels we use for people and the loss of autonomy and human dignity experienced by people like Bob. With that in mind, I'd like to know why Bob was not credited as a collaborator with the author. The book's existence raises a number of difficult ethical issues that I'm still working through. Above all, I'd actually like to read Bob's own account.

(P.S. At one point Bob joins the LDS church and experiences proxy baptisms for the dead. Of course!)
Profile Image for Mel.
693 reviews38 followers
October 31, 2018
Sandra Allen received an original typewritten copy of her uncle's manuscript and didn't know what to make of it, or if she should take it seriously. He, a long-time schizophrenic patient in and out of mental institutions for much of his life, expected her to do just that, give him some input, make something of it. She's was a writing student so she tried to incorporate his life story into her work and got a lot of push back, eventually she decided to really take it on, trying to hunt down confirmations of details and dates he'd written about, and receiving plenty of skepticism and antagonism from family members. This book is the outcome, alternating between her analysis and personal experiences with him, with his own words, edited and written out in third person. Reading stories like this one always provides a reminder that we have for centuries treated "crazy" people as less than full citizens and Uncle Bob's life was no exception. If the medication he was placed on in the 80s hadn't started to cause blindness he would have died in the stupor he lived in for almost 20 years. Such a shame. Glad Allen took it upon herself to shine a spotlight on his words.
Profile Image for Keith Raffel.
Author 5 books46 followers
January 25, 2018
In A Kind of Mirraculous Paradise, Sandra Allen shows us how her Uncle Bob, diagnosed as a schizophrenic, led a life of profundity and significance. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In a memoir entrusted to his niece, Bob did examine his sixty years. In her commentary on his writings, Ms. Allen grapples with his insights into the human condition and into what madness means in today's mixed-up world. A life remembered is a life saved. A beautiful book. Thank you, Sandra Allen.
Profile Image for el.
208 reviews3 followers
February 14, 2020


I really REALLY enjoyed this book."
Profile Image for Tracy.
1,883 reviews32 followers
August 5, 2018
Very interesting viewpoint of a mentally ill person, as relayed by his niece. She also includes some historical insight into schizophrenia.
Profile Image for Kristy.
1,002 reviews121 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
January 27, 2018
This is a very odd book. It’s touted at a true story taken from the author’s memoir he sent to her. But the whole thing is very sensationalized, racist, and uncomfortable.

Bob recounts his childhood which was filled with dysfunction and drugs. I couldn’t get past this part. I was hoping for a look into the mind of some with schizophrenia, but the introduction and beginning chapters clearly make this more an exposé on this author’s family. (Other reviews seem to say the same thing, solidifying my decision not to finish it.)
Profile Image for Maša.
657 reviews
March 12, 2019
I'm so torn here!

On the one hand, every story that helps me connect with people who are neuroatypical is precious. Here, I found some of those precious moments.
On the other hand, the retelling of this story is problematic. It is heavily edited - and I don't mean the grammar or spelling. The author admits to editing out whole passages that dealt with some od the more 'controversial' views her uncle held. Why? Also, the author doesn't really credit her uncle - she is the editor of his story, after all: where is his name on the cover? If the author ever reads this: you can change this, re-publish it .. Don't take away his voice!
Profile Image for Amy Morgan.
164 reviews14 followers
September 10, 2017
Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book.

An interesting look into the life of someone diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. A young woman knows her uncle her whole life and while it's always been clear something is a bit "off" no one ever talks about the fact that Uncle Bob is suffering from schizophrenia.

One day Bob sends his niece a manuscript of his life and wants her to tell his story. After letting extensive periods of time pass before even looking at the pages sent by her uncle Sandra finally reads the pages her uncle sent.

Facing the disapproval of many in her family Sandra decides to honor Bob's wish and tell his story. A fascinating look into the mind of someone who suffers from a mental affliction that people stigmatize and either can't or don't want to understand.

Definitely an interesting read for anyone who wants to understand more about this illness and the people it affects families included.
5 reviews
June 4, 2018
Yet again another great book. Similar to Dying: A Memoir, it is about a person that is suffering from an illness. The only gripe I have with this book is it's slow pace, other than that I enjoyed every minute I read of this book
Profile Image for Cori Spenzich.
Author 2 books4 followers
November 29, 2018
Thought this was a great book that showed the confusing and crazy times in the life of Bob, a relative of the author. A revised autobiography, told as a revised biography of Bob by his relative -- every other chapter being a dive into verifying events by Sandy, research, hearing from others about how true Bob's memory was, etc. -- of a man's struggles as both a teen and adult with the mental health system.

Reality is a weird, funky thing. Many of the stories he tells seem unreal, but turn out to have definitely happened. I think it was great that Sandy did so much investigation into understanding how "schizophrenia" is perceived, it's history, psychiatric survivors, families, patients, victims, critics, and more. A well-detailed look at things, that I think people could really benefit from reading.

An interesting aside is that, at one point, Bob has the following experience:

In the sky, he could make out some stars.
He looked down at his dog, who sat patiently by.
He looked again at the sky. Something had caught his eye.
An airplane?
He looked and--there!--he saw it again.
He couldn't tell what it was, but it was moving.
He kept staring, trying to decide whether his eyes were playing tricks on him, but the more he focused on it, the more he was certain there was something there, something blocking out just the stars at first, and then a stand of clouds, SOME DARK SHADOW OF SOME CRAFT:
It was coming closer.
Couldn't be an airplane.
Bob squinted and as he did a ray of energy hit him in the head, throwing him onto the dust.
He blacked out.

This reminds me of Phillip K. Dick, as he wrote a fictionalized hash-up of his own personal experiences (the VALIS trilogy) relating to a pink beam he believed had been shot at his head from space (in real life, in 1974). He wrote a collection of notes and theories that ended up posthumously compiled into a book called "The Exegesis of Phillip K. Dick." Strange stuff. He was also regarded by people to have had schizophrenia. Just an unrelated side note!

I would definitely recommend this book to those unfamiliar with what the impact of a schizophrenia diagnosis can have on the life of an individual in Western society. A well-balanced look at the struggles of the mind, and also the struggles of those wrapped up in the system. Especially involuntary treatment. The chapter "You Can Call It Anything" (pg. 93 - 101) is a great section on its own, taking a look into what something like "psychotic paranoid schizophrenia" even means.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 1 book10 followers
April 12, 2018
Not a true story about schizophrenia. Rather, an attempt by someone far removed from the experience of schizophrenia to bring "truthiness" to schizophrenia, treating it as some sort of mystery to be solved or fact-finding mission along the lines of a book report or six-inch newspaper article. The author spends hours upon hours interviewing family members and friends of Uncle Bob, whose true story this ostensibly is, instead of, say, interviewing Uncle Bob! Time spent asking if what Uncle Bob wrote could possibly be true could have better been spent finding out the why's and how's of the manuscript the author was entrusted with. You're left feeling that the only reason you're reading this is because the author felt guilty, indebted, and had started the thing so might as well finish.

If you know even a little about schizophrenia or madness, you will learn nothing more from reading this book. It is a heartbreaking read, because all I could think was how I just really wanted to read Bob's story, and not the "translation." And I didn't really care for the snappy history lessons scattered throughout or what Uncle Bob's dickwad of a father had to say about things. This is a writing exercise gone horribly wrong. A writing exercise that should not have made it past all the gatekeepers it did. I am saddened and surprised to see how unfit the author is to handle the story of someone so marginalized.
Profile Image for Robin.
117 reviews4 followers
February 28, 2018
Here's what I imagine: the author dreams of being a writer, but has no ideas of her own. BUT WAIT, an interesting manuscript falls into her lap by fate and now she can put out a book without even writing the entire thing herself! She did have to do some fact checking and ask some awkward questions of family members, so it's not like she didn't put in the work... right?

Is it exploitative? Well.. kind of. I mean, her uncle DID ask her to help get his story out. But I don't know that he meant she should avoid him until he dies and then put out this weird mashup of his story with her judgements. I absolutely don't think this book has a particularly unique take on mental illness compared to other memoirs that already exist. I also wouldn't say it has NO value, but... a lot of the uncomfortable stuff could have been ironed out if she had just consulted her subject. At least she could have asked him if they could cut the racist rants.. But then we wouldn't have seen how CA-RAZY and weird he is, right? Eh......

Takeaway: Not horrible, but leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Profile Image for Zandt McCue.
198 reviews24 followers
May 31, 2020
As someone who suffers from a form of this disease, I found this book great but also difficult at the same time. While you have to understand that a biography based on the writing of someone with...I'll use the word delusions here ... should be taken with a grain of salt, it is so entirely real. Our realities our own, whether or not it happened.

Like Sandra's uncle, I've been in a mental hospital. I've been in prison. I've moved tons of places and struggled with keeping jobs for long periods of times. I'd like to think I've overcome my struggling but I'm still all to aware of my issues.

I'm glad for the fact that we get to share in Bob's life story. It rushes by at the end, which is my only dislike of the manuscript.
Profile Image for Amy.
64 reviews
February 8, 2018
Reading this felt voyeuristic, only made worse by the fact that I'm certain this was not the author's intended effect. The title is misleading. This felt like reading someone's account of another person's life while holding them at arms length. Taking a speculative approach to another person's psyche might have been fine if the topic of schizophrenia or mental health had been heavily researched, but it wasn't.

I would have preferred this be presented either entirely from Sandra Allen's point of view or just to have her uncle's original manuscripts by themselves with footnotes.
Profile Image for Pat.
181 reviews
October 29, 2018
If you have someone close to you with a diagnosis, read this book.
If you want to have your limited understanding of schizophrenia englarged, read this book.
If you admire rigor and self-reflection in a writer, read this book.
If you enjoy a good story, well told, read this book.
If you're looking for good writing and empathic thinking, read this book.
If you want to advocate for the mentally ill better, read this book.
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