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A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  374 ratings  ·  80 reviews
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 bee
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 23rd 2018 by Scribner
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3.49  · 
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 ·  374 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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Nov 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
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, posturin
Feb 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 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 tha ...more
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Valerity (Val)
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 pull ...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
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 diagno
Feb 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
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.
Rebecca Due
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 (in
Review to come...
Madalyn Wasilczuk
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 abo ...more
Keith Raffel
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 A ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: never-finished
I'm letting this fish go to swim back in the wide ocean. Amazing premise, very poor execution. Two things would have taken this from DNF to amazing:

1. The Bob sections should have been his voice and not some fucking retelling. The random phrases from his writing seemed exploitative, like "can you believe how crazy he is?". Just let those sections be his writing.

2. The author should have engaged in some actual reseach, actual investigative journalism instead of just reading some fucking wiki pa
Scottsdale Public Library
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.
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Oct 31, 2018 rated it liked it
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 confir ...more
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, aft
Kristy K
Jan 27, 2018 marked it as dnf
Shelves: arc, netgalley
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
Amy Morgan
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 unc
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very interesting viewpoint of a mentally ill person, as relayed by his niece. She also includes some historical insight into schizophrenia.
Zach Hoffman
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Cori H. Spenzich
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Uncle Bob [or rather, Allen's "translation" of him]: Here is what happened to me in my life
Allen's Family: I don't remember what happened but it wasn't that. Let's talk about something else.

Also, as many other commenters have mentioned, it's bullshit that Uncle Bob gets no author credit when this book wouldn't even exist without his original autobiography.
Jun 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I started out annoyed by this book. I felt like the author's tone was patronizing to her subject. But I kept reading, and I changed my mind. I sort of fell in love with Bob, and I'm happy that his niece got his story out in this way. I hope that she didn't alienate any family members or upset anyone too much.
Denice Barker
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I worked in an elementary school there were children who we now refer to as “on the spectrum.” The spectrum is long and curved and so some of the children were very high functioning and some not so much. There were other children who were just plain struggling emotionally and while they were often considered ‘the problem child’ I couldn’t help wonder what it was like to BE them, to be inside their heads trying to make sense of us and the world.
I thought of this the whole time I read A Ki
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.7 (rounded up) I found the book very interesting. I retired from medicine after 31 years as an ER MD and my residency training was in Family Practice which involved 2 months of intensive work on a psychiatry unit. In addition to all the people I met there carrying diagnoses of psychotic illness one of my adolescent friends developed all the symptomotology of classic paranoid schizophrenia which escaped notice until college although my recollections of the gradual changes in personality and fun ...more
Nov 01, 2018 rated it liked it
It took me two tries to get through this book. Ultimately, I was glad I gave it another chance (after hearing the author speak), and thought the chapters in "Bob's voice" improve throughout the book. In fact, I'd recommend skimming/skipping the first section "by Bob," and dive in starting with his second installment. On my first go of reading the book, I had a hard time reading Bob and found it easier to read "the author's" chapters, but by the end I enjoyed Bob's chapters much more. I think the ...more
Translator Monkey
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Schizophrenic Uncle Bob + class project = amazing book on at least one man's life, thoroughly disrupted by mental illness treatments. This could have easily been little more than a carnival sideshow of characters weaving in and out of the mental facilities that Bob, author Sandy Allen's uncle, frequented, but the introspective interludes offered by Allen and her decision to plug her uncle's autobiography into a third-person perspective narrative offers textures I wasn't expecting.

Uncle Bob, out
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sandra Allen's approach to telling her uncle's story is unique. Unfolding in 3rd person, her uncle's writing is inserted at various points in ALL CAPS, often transcribed inclusive of his inventive spelling.
Uncle Bob's psychotic episodes began in his late teens, which is fairly typical of schizophrenia. In the 60's and 70's when his family first sought treatment, medication options were limited, and their side effects discouraged compliance; the temptation to self-medicate with marijuana, alcoh
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sandra Allen received a phone call from her uncle Bob in which he asks her for her address so he can mail her a copy of his autobiography he wrote. When she receives it she is reluctant to read the full autobiography let alone edit it or help me re-write it. As time goes by she does read it and eventually does vast research into his diagnosis, the diagnosis of schizophrenia, and her family. While she is still unsure of what was truth and what might have been Bob's delusions, she told his story i ...more
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“I tried to figure out the answer in books. The more books I read, though, the more it became clear that there was no simple answer as to what schizophrenia is, or what causes it. There was, if anything, a charged and polarized disagreement, a complicated one, one I had never known about before.” 1 likes
“Without the drugs slowing him down, he realized that it was his job to turn his life around, that nobody was going to do it for him, and that he was capable of doing it. And the world, it seemed, was interested in making up for all the shit it'd dealt him these last few years.” 0 likes
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