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Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness
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Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,082 ratings  ·  195 reviews
Inferno is the riveting memoir of a young mother who is separated from her newborn son and husband when she's involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward in New Jersey after a harrowing bout of postpartum psychosis.

When Catherine Cho and her husband set off from London to introduce their newborn son to family scattered across the United States, she could not have imagine
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 4th 2020 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published March 19th 2020)
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  1,082 ratings  ·  195 reviews

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Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Catherine Cho’s son was not even three months old when she experienced a psychotic break; when her son’s eyes transformed into devil’s eyes and she had trouble distinguishing between her own life and parallel realities, she was experiencing a rare but serious ailment known as postpartum psychosis. Though the onset typically happens closer to giving birth, the result is just as severe: hallucinations, paranoia, inability to sleep - the list goes on. Basically overnight, a new mother can go from b ...more
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
An honest and unflinching look at postpartum psychosis, mental hospitalization and the Korean culture. A brutally honest look at Catherine Cho's life. It's amazing how she opened herself up like this and shared so much! She tells how traveling around stressed her out and then she had a baby leading to postpartum psychosis. The Korean culture was very unforgiving of her problems, so she was institutionalized in the mental hospital missing her child's 100 day celebration. I know it wasn't easy to ...more
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4-4.5 stars

an absolutely stunning memoir in every sense of the word. catherine cho's writing has a way of burrowing under your skin.

Emily M
Jul 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mother

As an experience worth basing a memoir around, Cho’s sudden, violent descent into postpartum psychosis a few months after the birth of her son is unparalleled.

We meet Cho on a general psych ward in America. She’s supposed to be on holiday, travelling around the US with her husband and three month old to introduce him to family. But family pressure, sleep deprivation or plain old hormones rush in, and she starts hallucinating that the baby is the devil, the hospital is Hell, and she is a kind
Madeline O'Rourke
Inferno is a fantastic memoir. Postpartum psychosis is something that I had zero knowledge about when I began reading this book. Cho deftly writes about her experience, informing the reader about postpartum psychosis in a super engaging and well-written way. I'm not sure if Cho will write anything else—fiction or non-fiction—but I'd absolutely be eager to pick up anything she does write. She is talented, able to take an interesting story and make it engaging to read. ...more
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was initially expecting a book about psychosis, but Inferno by Catherine Cho revealed to be so much more. This is a story about love, motherhood and life: after just a few pages I wanted to learn more about Catherine's experience, so much so that I struggled to put this book down.

With Inferno, the author bravely guides us through her emotional journey, which starts with her lost in a psych ward, but page after page she untangles the knots and resurfaces with new hope. She is able to vividly de
Kelly Long
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
This is a tough book to read because of the host and raw emotion that it gives the reader. I can't even begin to imagine how frightening it would be to "lose" one's mind in psychosis.
This book is written with such honesty. I like how she incorporates the past in with her experience of being in the mental hospital.
Jessica Haider
Inferno is a powerful, raw memoir about a women's experience with postpartum psychosis. Catherine Cho was raised in a Korean American household. She married and had her first child. She and her husband decided to use part of their family leave to travel the US to visit relatives with their new baby. During this trip, Cho's mental state spiraled downward into a state of postpartum psychosis. She is checked into an institution. Cho is very open about her state of mind throughout her journey and it ...more
Kait Vanderlaan
Apr 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Inferno is a memoir about experiencing post-partum psychosis in the Korean culture. I appreciate the vulnerability of the author in sharing about her illness and the things that lead to it: previous trauma, excessive traveling, and feeling unprepared for motherhood. Each brief chapter alternates between her time in a psychiatric hospital, experiences leading up to her illness, and memories from the past. I enjoyed the format and the way things pieced together in an attempt to offer an explanatio ...more
Lucia Walker
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Astonishing, terrifying and utterly heartbreaking, this memoir gives a remarkable insight into the vortex of postpartum psychosis. It is also a hymn to the aching tenderness, love, guilt and regret bound up in both childhood and motherhood. Written in masterful, limpid prose, it grips from the first page: I could not put it down.
Jaclyn Crupi
Cho’s experience of post-partum psychosis is brutal. When she sees the devil in her three-month old baby’s eyes you know how dark this will get. I’ve read so many Girl, Interrupted style memoirs and novels now and seem to have an insatiable appetite. The difference here is Cho’s insights into Korean culture, especially when it comes to birth and babies. I had never heard of post-partum psychosis and learnt so much.
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've always been fascinated by the topic of postpartum psychosis. I have four children and have suffered postpartum depression and anxiety, so it's a topic close to my heart. I've never seen a memoir or even a book written about it, so I was so excited to read Catherine Cho's memoir. I read it practically in one sitting. It was so moving and fascinating that I couldn't put it down. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer and had more detail! Postpartum psychosis is something that needs so ...more
Dear Anne...
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
I am very into books of the mental health nature and keen on reading more and more on motherhood as of lately. But I felt like this book was being told to me through a distance stance. It didn't feel like the author was telling me her story, but a story of someone else's life. I stuck with it and held hope that she would open up and dive deeper into her experiences and her feelings, but no. Story is still beautiful, about the importance of family and having a support system but I ex
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 rounded up

Inferno tells Cho's story of her postpartum psychosis which came on three months after the birth of her son during a trip back home to the U.S.. Her memories from her time in hospital are interspersed with her life up until the birth of her child, and they make for a riveting and moving read.

Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Cho, a Korean American literary agent based in London, experienced stress-induced postpartum psychosis after the birth of her son, Cato. She and her husband James had gone back to the USA when Cato was two months old to introduce him to friends and family, ending with a big Korean 100-day celebration for him at her in-laws’ home in New Jersey. Almost as soon as they got to her in-laws’, though, she started acting strangely: she was convinced there were cameras watching their every move, and Cato ...more
Katherine Congleton
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. Cho is a masterful storyteller, bringing the reader along for the wild ride that is postpartum psychosis. I found myself having to pause to catch my breath as Cho brought me through the depths of her psychosis—the paranoia, the loss of time and space, the confusion—and suddenly returned to moments of lucidity, then back again into chaos once more. I’d recommend reading this with a cup of stress relief tea on hand.
Realistic and haunting in its perceptions experienced. But extremely repetitive and characteristic for all the voids in its very form. I was virtually numbed by the half way point. As if it itself, very words of this book, were RX anti-psychotic medications. Thus she did express herself overall in a 4 stars equivalent to what she had experienced.
Basic B's Guide
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Inferno is an intimate and deeply affecting account of postpartum psychosis. As a mother I could relate to the panic and stress of being responsible for a human life. I remember my first day on my own with the boys, panic set in and I wondered how in the heck I was going to take care of these babies and not screw it up. Also the guilt we carry as mothers throughout it all. Cho carried these feelings of guilt even when she was in the psychiatric ward.⁣

Not only was the story relatable as a mother
Oct 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Cho writes well about her split from reality, and a tiny bit about coming back to it.

What the story highlights for me is that if her experience was this horrible spending 4 days in emergency and about a week in a psych ward, with parents and her husband by her side, how horrible it must be for people whose psychosis doesn’t end, and for those who have no supports whatsoever that get stuck in the system alone with no hopes of release or improvement in their condition, largely because of the outd
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
#Inferno #NetGalley #CatherineCho
I am reviewing this book after being given an advanced copy by NetGalley. Thanks to NetGalley and the author, Catherine Cho! Following is an honest review of this true story. It is about the trials and tribulations of a new mother who finds herself experiencing postpartum psychosis when she travels from London to the United States to introduce her new son to her and her husbands families. It tells of her unraveling from the pressures of travel and having a new b
Elena L.
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
[3,5/5 stars]

INFERNO is an honest and vastly vulnerable memoir of Catherine Cho focused on her postpartum experience. When Cho and her family decide to go on a round trip in United States to introduce her son to the family, she develops postpartum psychosis.

As a mother myself, this memoir is relatable in many ways - the stress and anxiety to raise a child and the feelings of guilt when things go out of our plans. Despite some reckless attitudes, I could empathize with Cho's desire to reconstruct
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I wouldn’t know where to begin. This is an amazing book. I wish it had been available to me many years ago. The author is incredibly honest, and reassuring to every new mother who might be experiencing unexpected problems.
Sep 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: absolute-faves
I already know I will reread this book several times and that each time I'll discover something I didn't see before. And that's why it's going on my favorites bookshelf. ...more
Michael J
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have not read this book, but just read the article in the Guardian with a excerpt of Catherine’s harrowing account. I honor her courage and fortitude in sharing this awful experience with the world. May we learn more about the reality of postpartum psychosis from her, and may the future be bright with healing and love for all her family. B’shalom, Mike
Nicole Angeleen
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Why is it that we never hear about the horrors of motherhood unless we actively seek them out? I think if you asked Catherine Cho, she'd say it was worth it for her son, but...maybe she wouldn't? Or maybe some other people wouldn't? Or others simply wouldn't want to find out? The point is, the physical acts of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood are feral and lethal and it was refreshing to read a story where the love part of it wasn't romanticized and the terror not minimized.

A few months after Ch
Nov 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
‘Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness’ by Catherine Cho is fascinating and poetically written memoir about the author’s experience of early motherhood and postpartum psychosis. As someone who has two young children, I could certainly relate to the bizarre and incredibly demanding experience of early motherhood Cho details in her memoir. Specifically losing bodily autonomy, suffering and recovering from the trauma of birth, and the constant demands and exhaustion that comes from caring for ...more
Nov 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing

“... It was a warning against the triumph of love, because something so beautiful, so raw, can only end. To bare one’s heart is to know suffering, vulnerability. It is a destructive force. That’s what makes it beautiful, to know morality and failure, but to step off the edge anyway.”

Inferno by Catherine Cho was the third book I read in the shortlist for this year’s Young Writer Award @youngwriteryear . A memoir, a recount of what happened in 2017 three months after Catherine gave birt
Jan 23, 2021 rated it liked it
Inferno is a memoir by Catherine Cho, detailing her experience with post partum psychosis, a rare but serious condition. Originally from the States, but having moved to London with her husband, they decided to do a cross-country road trip in America while on maternity leave. During this trip, Cho had a psychotic breakdown and was involuntarily admitted to the hospital. The memoir shares the events that led to her psychotic episode, how she thought her baby was a demon and that she was in hell, a ...more
Jack (That English Guy who Reads)
In the final 50-100 pages of this memoir, it becomes a terrifying horror story. Cho writes about her manic psychosis so compellingly and vividly, it would be easier to believe that it was fiction. That this is in fact a true story, an experience that someone has lived through, intensifies the horror.

Before the final 100 pages, in the rest of the memoir,Cho writes about her own past as well as her Korean heritage, highlighting her identity as a modern woman and how that contrasts with aspects of
Read my full review over on my blog!

Inferno is the first-person account of author Catherine Cho’s experience with postpartum psychosis and being involuntarily committed to New Bridge Medical Center on the psych ward. As is so often the case with memoirs, it’s challenging to rate this; although not perfect, its imperfections are a reflection of Cho’s life, so it feels strange to criticize them!

I picked up this book because I watched A Book Olive’s August wrap-up over on YouTube and she described
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