The rocky road from childhood victimization in the 1940s to self-acceptance and recovery in middle age is documented in this stirring memoir. Self-destructive impulses and a desire to expand her emotional range led Hebald to delve into psychoanalysis. Rather than help her become a well-adjusted person, the experience transformed her into a "professional patient" who was told that she was a likely candidate for suicide and would need psychiatric drugs for the rest of her life. Despite hospitalizations for her illness, the author managed careers in acting (on and off Broadway), teaching (former associate professor of English, Univ. of Kansas), and writing (Three Blind Mice: Two Short Novels), though her personal life was more clouded. Frank but somewhat ambivalent about her early abusers, Hebald boldly critiques traditional ideas about mental illness based on the treatment that she received. The range and rich details of her life experiences make this book very readable as well as significant for its insights into the stark limitations and subtly inhumane aspects of modern psychiatry. Recommended for large public libraries and all psychology collections. Antoinette Brinkman, formerly with the Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville
In this emotionally moving, brutally honest, and rewarding memoir, Carol Hebald’s writing is filled with vivid imagery and colorful characterizations.
CONFRONTATION, no.76/77, Fall/Winter 2002,
Brilliant: that is the word I want to use to describe Carol Hebald's memoir of mental pain and healing, by far the best such memoir I have ever read.
Kelly Cherry (February 2004)
After a lifetime of mental illness, marked by repeated suicide attempts and hospitalizations, and a parade of ineffectual psychiatrists, Hebald, at the age of 44, threw her pharmacopoeia into the ocean and walked away from therapy. Since then, she has lived mostly free from madness, managing to earn her living as a writing teacher and to produce this cathartic memoir of her sexual and emotional abuse. Closer to her father than her mother, Hebald was devastated at age five when he died of cancer. Years later, in therapy, she remembered that he "made love" to her on his deathbed. Physically abused by her older sister, Hebald found no ally in their babysitter, who locked her in dark closets while Hebald's mother took over the family business. Hebald's only escape, at the age of six, was to go to the movies alone, inviting men in the theater to "play" with her, so she could experience the pleasure she had with her father. Her schooling was a disaster; by her early teens, Hebald was unable to recognize or express her feelings. One of her therapists noted Hebald's difficulty in distinguishing fantasy from reality; her readers may also find some of her story hard to believe. Her wholesale repudiation of psychiatry, though understandable given such experiences, may seem extreme to many readers. Yet Hebald's writing is smooth, her narrative is gripping and her eventual recovery provides an inspirational ending to her harrowing tale. (May 23) Forecast: Hebald's book combines solid prose with an Oprah-esque saga of overcoming adversity. Author publicity will help this book, especially given its inspirational ending. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Diagnosed with mental illness and informed at 21 she would inevitably commit suicide, Hebald's story of psychiatric care, her decision to abandon both it and her medications, and her ultimate success make for an enthralling story of personal success even as it constitutes a troubling insider's story of the mental health industry. A former English professor at the U. of Kansas at Lawrence, Hebald is an author in New York City. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A disjointed memoir of a descent into mental illness and an eventual return and emergence as a professor of literature. Hebald (Three Blind Mice, 1989) here maps out her journey through a variety of mental institutions in her quest for a cure to her suicidal tendencies and general misery. Not surprisingly, it stems from her childhood: abusive mother and sister, incestuous father, complete inability to focus her thoughts in school, encounters with licentious male patrons at the movie theater. Isolated by a lack of social skills, the author conceived a passion for drama and through a combination of talent and force of will got herself into the highly coveted acting classes of Uta Hagen and others. She also acquired a number of older lovers and a series of psychiatrists who prescribed a bewildering variety of drugs for her condition, sometimes diagnosed as schizophrenia. She repeatedly attempted to kill herself, was hospitalized, was misunderstood by her therapists, and finally liberated herself from the treatment cycle when she tossed her medications into the sea. It's easy to understand the author's frustration with her doctors. Some urged her to get married ("Mating is an instinct," one told her), while others advised her to stop acting and get a secretarial job. Nonetheless, despite her wretched tale, our protagonist engenders little sympathy in the reader. Her story is disjointed, her dialogue stilted, and her tone querulous. Hebald should obviously be the star of her own autobiography, but in this case she has crowded every other player off the stage. Her mother and sister, key figures in a turbulent childhood, are mere sketches. Lovers, doctors, and other patients flash by. Whenone psychiatrist infuriates Hebald by telling her "You're too intense," many readers will nod in sympathywith the doctor. Far from compelling.