Greenberg renders the details of his daughter's breakdown with lyrical precision. He ably describes the heightened sense of being that is often a component of madnessand the way it beckons to outsiders.
The Washington Post
What sets Hurry Down Sunshine apart from the great horde of mediocre memoirs, with their sitcom emotions and too neatly resolved fights and reconciliations, is Greenberg's frank pessimism, dark humor and fundamental incapacity to make sense of his daughter's ordeal, let alone to derive an uplifting moral from it…beyond family drama, Hurry Down Sunshine is a very New York book, filled with the kind of characters increasingly rare in a city where real kooks can no longer afford to live.
The New York Times
Columnist and author Greenberg's heartbreaking and inspiring memoir details his daughter's downfall into insanity one hot summer in New York City. Greenberg writes with a raw passion and intensity, capturing the essence of every detail and event as if they were occurring in real time as he types. His reading is a heartfelt and honest attempt to relate the experiences with as much restrained emotion as possible, offering it as part headline news story, part editorial. With perfect pitch, tone and pacing, Greenberg is a talented narrator, who will surely capture and hold listeners' attention. An Other Press hardcover (Reviews, June 23).
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Times Literary Supplement (UK) columnist Greenberg's elegiac, beautifully crafted memoir chronicles the summer his teenaged daughter, Sally, lost her mind to madness. In it, Greenberg observes the experience and its effect on everyone involved with meticulous care. At times acutely painful, at times painfully funny, his story alternates between the progression of Sally's bewildering, frightening decline and Greenberg's own at times comically absurd experience as he simultaneously deals with a dependent brother suffering from his own demons; a difficult, obtuse wife; and a New Age ex-wife who, after each visit, offers cosmic explanations for her daughter's condition before retreating to her home in the country. Characters from the psychiatric ward where Sally spends nearly a month are often indistinguishable in their strangeness from the doctors themselves, giving the atmosphere of the hospital a hauntingly surrealistic air. The whole effect is one of a wrathful storm passing through Greenberg's life, turning every relationship upside down as it shattered any semblance of inner peace in both father and daughter and destroyed their ability to communicate at the time. Sure to become a new classic in the literature of mental illness; highly recommended for all public libraries.
Times Literary Supplement columnist Greenberg chronicles his 15-year-old daughter Sally's manic breakdown in vivid yet surprisingly detached prose. In July 1996, the author awoke to find a furiously annotated copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets and loose pages of Sally's poetry strewn about their Greenwich Village apartment. That night, the police escorted his daughter home for "acting crazy" in the streets. Greenberg and second wife Pat pieced the story together from Sally's breathless, incoherent account. She had been struck by a vision: We are all born geniuses, but society robs us of the gift. When the police pulled up, she was on a mission to communicate this to anyone who would listen-even people in the speeding cars she was convinced she could thwart with her hand. Michael and Pat took the "feral, glitter-eyed" Sally to the nearest emergency room, where a psychiatrist gave a preliminary diagnosis of bipolar 1 and admitted her to the psych ward. In his text, her father deals with the shock of Sally's condition by portraying it in the context of literary madness. Greenberg quotes Lowell's descriptions of his own manic episodes, cites Spinoza and alludes to Plato, Byron, Hemingway and Woolf. This might seem aggrandizing, but the author is trying to demonstrate that Sally's insights are sometimes justified, while at the same time avoiding James Joyce's fatal error of enabling his daughter's madness by participating in her visions. Sally spent 24 days in the ward, flanked by her quirky family and a tableau of other colorful characters, before she returned home, highly medicated and bravely determined to believe her therapist's assertion that psychosis is not an identity. Greenberg'stalent for description occasionally runs away from him in a narrative that could be slightly tighter, but his erudite portrait of bipolar disease as experienced from both inside and out is dazzling. Sally's own precocious descriptions of her mania serve as no small aid. Bears enlightening and articulate witness to the sheer force of an oft-misunderstood disease. Agent: Irene Skolnick/Irene Skolnick Literary Agency
From the Publisher
Suzanne Niemoth, Flavorpill
“Michael Greenberg's excellently written memoir … echoes the genre's most poignant predecessors. … Greenberg's wry, lighting-bolt prose and unsentimental portrayal of his family's ordeal make for a brilliant, engrossing sketch of mental illness and its terrifying, destructive fallout.”
Oliver Sacks, New York Review of Books
“In its detail, depth, richness, and sheer intelligence, Hurry Down Sunshine will be recognized as a classic of its kind ….Lucid, realistic, compassionate, illuminating, Hurry Down Sunshine may provide a sort of guide for those who have to negotiate the dark regions of the soul—a guide, too, for their families and friends, for all those who want to understand what their loved ones are going through.”
Time, Lev Grossman
“[an]… extraordinary memoir…”
“The prose is so fluid that it transports us into the author's head, making his shock, fear, and love our own.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“[Hurry Down Sunshine is]… almost impossible to put down.”
“…deeply affecting and poetically rendered…”
Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: William Miles, MD (Rush University Medical Center)
Description: This memoir details the psychotic break and eventual recovery of the author's 15-year-old daughter.
Purpose: The implication is that the author felt the need to express his experiences in writing, and to educate readers about dealing with a child suffering from a mental illness. These are certainly worthy objectives, and the author meets them.
Audience: Anyone who has experienced mental illness either personally or in a loved one, or who wishes to be educated about the impact of mental illness, would find this book an interesting read. The author is a credible authority on the subject, as is anyone who has personally dealt with mental illness in a child or loved one.
Features: This memoir outlines the summer of 1996, when the author's daughter has a psychotic break and is eventually diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder. The book is divided into three parts, which roughly coincide with diagnosis, stabilization, and acceptance/maintenance. The author, a columnist for a London publication, is a marvelous writer, and his descriptions of his daughter's psychotic behavior and eventual recovery (and the effects on both him and his family) are riveting.
Assessment: This is a harrowing, brutally honest, and extremely well written account of the mental breakdown of a loved one. The author's descriptions of his daughter's behavior offer a much more meaningful lesson for readers about what constitutes mania than could ever be gleaned by reading a textbook. Anyone who has been through a similar experience, or simply wants to read a first-person account of mental illness and its effects, will find this book a good read.
Read an Excerpt
Sally emerges from her room in a thin hospital gown, snap buttons, no laces or ties. She suddenly looks ageless. The only other time I’ve seen her in a hospital was the night she was born. By that point in our marriage her mother and I were like two people drinking alone in a bar. Not hostile, just miles apart. Yet when Sally appeared, a huge optimism came over us, a physical optimism, primitive and momentarily blind. She was her own truth, complete to herself, so beautifully formed that the jaded maternity nurses marveled at what perfection had just slid into the world. Though she has never set foot in a psychiatric hospital, there is the tacit sense from Sally that she is understood here, she is where she belongs. She acts as if a great burden has been lifted from her. At the same time she is more elevated than ever: feral, glitter-eyed. In 1855 a friend of Robert Schumann observed him at the piano in an asylum near Bonn: “like a machine whose springs are broken, but which still tries to work, jerking convulsively.” Sally appears to be heading toward this maimed point of perpetual motion. Her sole concern is to get her pen back, which has been confiscated with most of her other belongings–belt, matches, shoelaces, keys, anything with glass, and her comb with half its teeth snapped off by her potent hair. She initiates an agitated negotiation with the nurses, which immediately threatens to boil over into a serious scene. The nurses confer like referees after a disputed call. Then they grant her a felt-tip marker and march her back to her room.