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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

Circles Around the Sun: In Search of a Lost Brother (French Edition)

Circles Around the Sun: In Search of a Lost Brother - Molly McCloskey This is a splendid memoir of the author's brother, Mike, who suffers from schizophrenia and the effect his illness had on the family and on the author herself. It is beautifully written, without a single false or self-serving note. McCloskey looks at herself, her own sometimes fragile mental balance and her journey into and out of alcohol abuse with the same clarity and honesty with which she gazes at the rest of her family. As McCloskey explores what it means to be well, the effect is stunning and poignant. McCloskey's voice is sure and questioning. We feel we discover her family as she does, through ever-deepening layers of time, experience, and interaction. Her language is exquisite and exquisitely precise. Much of the research comes from family letters, about which she says:"What the letters had become was home. I wasn't sure which had the greater part in constituting home, time or space, because the letters blended and confused the two dimensions. They felt like forty years of time I could place on the table in front of me and enter as though it were a house."The McCloskeys are a large and beautiful family (featured on magazine covers, her father a quite-famous basketball coach). They seem to have everything going for them, when Mike, fourteen years older than the author, after a period of heavy drug use, begins to slip into psychosis. It is a continuing, devastating journey into hospitalizations, disappearances, homelessness, medications, paranoid delusions and terrible isolation.And it bring with it all the conflicted emotions one might honestly expect. For example, what, McCloskey asks, does it mean to be ill in this way? One of her brother's girlfriends says at one point, that Mike has a sweetness that eventually becomes, "overlaid with something false and stylised, like he was straining to detach himself from who he had been, and with unconvincing results." How is one to feel about a family member who is so ill? McCloskey does not paint herself with a saint's brush here. She says, "I already knew that I had long felt guilty about him -- for having wished when I was young that he would vanish, and when I was older, for never having made an effort to see him when I was living not far from him in Portland. But I had not, on a conscious level, felt guilt about the fact that he was ill and I was not. What I'd felt all those years was relief -- at having escaped a fate that seemed, to some unknown degree, stitched into our genes."It is an uneasy, uncomfortable, love-laden dance.The reader feels in wonderful hands with such a clear-eyed guide, and such an erudite one. McCloskey has done her reading, as this passage shows, in which she is trying to come to terms with her own period of crippling anxiety: "Anxiety is essentially the condition in which fear is fearing itself. Kierkegaard likened it to a Grand Inquisitor, who attacks when we are weakest and never lets us escape, 'neither by diversion nor by noise, neither at work nor at play, neither by day nor by night'. She quotes, to excellent effect, Schopenhauer, Brian Dillon, Saks, Rollo May and many more. I came away not only deeply touched by what I'd read, but also with a reading list.This is a book that bears witness to extraordinary compassion. The relationship between mother and son is particularly piercing, and perhaps the image of "When Mike arrived at the green-carpeted house [after a disappearance and period of homelessness] with boils and body lice, it was she who put on her bathing suit and scrubbed him in the shower." The heart breaks.Few writers would have been able to marry the personal with the universal so well. I can't imagine anyone not being affected by this book.