Hurry Down Sunshine

Hurry Down Sunshine

3.4 33
by Michael Greenberg
     
 

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A TIME BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

Hurry Down Sunshine is an extraordinary family story and a memoir of exceptional power. In it, Michael Greenberg recounts in vivid detail the remarkable summer when, at the age of fifteen, his daughter was struck mad. It begins with Sally's sudden visionary crack-up on the streets of Greenwich Village, and

Overview

A TIME BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

Hurry Down Sunshine is an extraordinary family story and a memoir of exceptional power. In it, Michael Greenberg recounts in vivid detail the remarkable summer when, at the age of fifteen, his daughter was struck mad. It begins with Sally's sudden visionary crack-up on the streets of Greenwich Village, and continues, among other places, in the out-of-time world of a Manhattan psychiatric ward during the city's most sweltering months. It is a tale of a family broken open, then painstakingly, movingly stitched together again.

Among Greenberg's unforgettable cast of characters are an unconventional psychiatrist, an Orthodox Jewish patient, a manic Classics professor, a movie producer, and a landlord with literary aspirations. Unsentimental, nuanced, and deeply humane, Hurry Down Sunshine is essential reading in the literature of affliction alongside classics such as Girl, Interrupted and An Unquiet Mind.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Lucid, realistic, compassionate, and illuminating.... In its detail, depth, richness and sheer intelligence, Hurry Down Sunshine will be recognized as a classic of its kind." —Oliver Sacks, The New York Review of Books

“[Hurry Down Sunshine] is about tenacity and tenderness, feeling helpless but being present, about cracking up, then finding the wherewithal to glue the jagged pieces of your mind back together again. But mostly it's about love.”  —Oprah Winfrey, in her letter to readers in O, The Oprah Magazine

“Triumphant. . . . Greenberg renders the details of his daughter's breakdown with lyrical precision.” —The Washington Post

“There is a dancing, dazzling siren seductress at the heart of this book and . . . [it is] madness itself. . . . The startling associative imagery that gives Greenberg's writing its power is like a domesticated version of the madness that nearly carried away his daughter's life.” —Time

“This memoir of a family crisis captures the grief that transformed their lives . . . readers come away with a sense of the intractable nature of psychosis and the courage it requires for patients like Sally, whose struggles continue, merely to live.” —People

“[Hurry Down Sunshine’s] fundamental strength arises from Greenberg’ s insistence on facing the demons that held his girl in their dark thrall. Sally’ s descent and tentative return form the map for this story; Greenberg’s courage lies in his willingness to follow her down that terrible path, no matter where it leads.” —Bookforum

“[A] remarkable account.” —The New York Times Book Review

“[A] finely observed memoir . . . written in delicately episodic style. Vivid.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Touching, warmly intimate, and unsparing. . . . Like the best fiction, this memoir has transcended the merely particular and eccentric to constitute a kind of hard-won art.” —Joyce Carol Oates, Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Beautifully written. . . . The literary precedents Greenberg turns to are Joyce and Robert Lowell. . . . There are echoes of Virginia Woolf, too. . . . Sally’s psychiatrist calls . . . the mind falling in love with its delusions . . . ‘the evil seduction’. But Greenberg can understand the impulse, and it’s this that gives Hurry Down Sunshine such power.” —The Guardian (London)

“A story of almost mythic power. . . . A compelling narrative about how one family coped with madness. . . . Tough and lyrical. . . . Greenberg brings a true writer’s sensibility to every line.”
The Times (London)

“[A] moving, brutally self-examining and unsettling memoir.” —The Daily Mail (London)

“[Greenberg] writes beautifully. . . . [He is] gratefully and minutely observant. . . . His cast captivates.” —The Observer (London)

“The psychotic break of his fifteen-year-old daughter is the grit around which Michael Greenberg forms the pearl that is Hurry Down Sunshine. It is a brilliant, taut, entirely original study of a suffering child and a family and marriage under siege.” –Janet Malcolm, author of The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes and The Journalist and the Murderer

“One of the most gripping and disturbingly honest books I have ever read. The courage Michael Greenberg shows in narrating the story of his adolescent daughter’s descent into psychosis is matched by his acute understanding of how alone each of us is, sane or manic, in our processing of reality and our attempts to get others to appreciate what seems important to us. This is a remarkable memoir.” —Phillip Lopate, author of Two Marriages and Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan

Nell Casey
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 madness—and the way it beckons to outsiders.
—The Washington Post
Rachel Donadio
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
Publishers Weekly
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).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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 afirst-person account of mental illness and its effects, will find this book a good read.
Library Journal

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.
—Elizabeth Brinkley

Kirkus Reviews
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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307473547
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/08/2009
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
421,889
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.78(d)

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.

What People are saying about this

The psychotic break of his fifteen-year-old daughter is the grit around which Michael Greenberg forms the pearl that is Hurry Down Sunshine. It is a brilliant, taut, entirely original study of a suffering child and a family and marriage under siege. I know of no other book about madness whose claim to scientific knowledge is so modest and whose artistic achievement is so great. –-Janet Malcolm, author of The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes and The Journalist and the Murderer

One of the most gripping and disturbingly honest books I have ever read. The courage Michael Greenberg shows in narrating the story of his adolescent daughter’s descent into psychosis is matched by his acute understanding of how alone each of us, sane or manic, is in our processing of reality and our attempts to get others to appreciate what seems important to us. This is a remarkable memoir. –-Phillip Lopate, author of Two Marriages and Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan

Meet the Author

A native New Yorker, Michael Greenberg is a columnist for the Times Literary Supplement (London), where his wide-ranging essays have been appearing since 2003. His fiction, criticism, and travel pieces have been published in such varied places as O, The Oprah Magazine, Bomb, The Village Voice, and The New York Review of Books. He lives in New York with his wife and son.

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Hurry Down Sunshine 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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sandiek More than 1 year ago
Hurry Down Sunshine is Michael Greenberg's painful memoir of the summer his fifteen year old daughter was diagnosed as bipolar. Bright, outgoing and verbal, he and his wife didn't notice that Sally was edging closer and closer to the edge. She was staying up all night, writing frantically in her journals and walking for hours in New York. But it was summer with summer's relaxed structure and they thought it was the typical teenage behavior of finding one's self and one's voice. Then came the day when it became apparent that this was more than normal teenage angst. Sally became very agitated, unable to stop talking and babbling, eager to share her revelations. The family took her to the hospital, and then were appalled to find that she needed to be admitted to the psychological ward. The book details family reactions. There was guilt, disbelief, and incredible amounts of worry about what would happen to Sally in the future. Compounding the issue, the author had a brother that had always struggled with mental illness. Seeing his maladjusted life, the pain of realising that his daughter might be headed down the same road was almost unbearable. Yet the book is inspring also. The reader walks with the family through recovery as different drugs are administered, each with it's own set of side effects. Sally was able to come home as the summer progressed, and by the time the summer was over, was able to go back to her high school. The book details how her struggle changed the family and its dynamics forever, as they learned to live with this lifetime affliction. This book is recommended for those struggling with the diagnosis of mental illness or for parents facing any type of life-altering issue in their child's life. It is also recommended for those who have been diagnosed, giving hope for how to live with the new reality.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ruby28 More than 1 year ago
Wonderfully written and very insightful, I loved this story.
books4gail More than 1 year ago
How generous of Michael Greenberg to write with such honesty of the summer of his 15 year old daughter's descent into madness (and hers for allowing this story to be told.) The summer includes, aside from Sally, difficulties with his adult brother and his mental illness, seemingly honest accounting of the relationship with former and current wife--all a challenge given the serious mental illness they are dealing with. I loved the literary references, especially to James Joyce and his daughter's mental illness. He writes in a new preface that young people were taken with Sally's story--I would definitely recommend to young and old.
SUZYQ22 More than 1 year ago
I found this book about Bipolar Disorder to be very helpful. I have found it helpful to read as many books as possible about this disorder as my daughter has Bipolar 1. Another new book just released I found inspiring and has given me great hope is a new memoir called I just want my daughter back - coming to terms with Bipolar 1 by BC Levinson that I found on Amazon.com . Seeing how others cope with bipolar disorder has made a big difference in our journey. It gives hope to those of us walking in these shoes. I actually found the new book through Twitter.com.. you can even chat with the author @BIPOLARSMOM2 . Very nice lady.. Hope this helps Sue