The Scar, Mary Cregan has set herself the challenge of describing her personal anguish while educating the reader about the history of the treatment of depression. With a rare combination of clear-sightedness, a novelist’s sense of narrative presence and cultural texture, and an ability to synthesize and explain an enormous quantity of scientific data, Mary Cregan makes an entirely original and invaluable contribution to the literature of this illness that has cast its mysterious shadow over so many lives."
"A wrenching memoir of loss, sorrow, and recovery, as well as a layperson’s informed and intelligent investigation of the illness that almost ended her life."
Irish Echo - Honor Molloy
"A superbly intelligent and subtle interrogation of depression.… Gripping, elegant, constantly illuminating."
Irish Times - Fintan O’Toole
"Intimate and brave.… [
The Scar] joins ranks with Kay Redfield Jamison’s book, An Unquiet Mind, and William Styron’s book Darkness Visible."
"Cregan poignantly demonstrates the hard-won pragmatism of those who have battled mental illness.… In providing kinship to its fellow traveler, The Scar becomes the best sort of memoir—one that serves a higher purpose."
Los Angeles Review of Books - Leslie Kendall Dye
"Disturbing, powerful, revelatory."
Booklist (starred review)
"Courageous.… Cregan talks about mental health in a way that resonates with readers even as it informs. Those struggling with depression will find things to identify with here, and all readers will gain more insight into how depression affects its victims."
The Most Powerful Memoirs of 2019 - Celadon Books - Stephen Lovely
In her powerful debut memoir, Cregan, a Barnard College English literature lecturer, reflects upon a lifetime of struggle with clinical depression. In 1984, Cregan, then 27, gave birth to a daughter who died within days due to a heart defect. She plummeted into despair, ending up in a psychiatric hospital, where she attempted suicide by slicing her neck with a shard of glass. The experiences took a toll on Cregan’s marriage, and five years after her baby’s death, she and her husband divorced. Cregan eventually realized that her depression had begun much earlier—possibly in adolescence—and was exacerbated by an Irish Catholic upbringing and religious beliefs based on shame and guilt. She weaves into her narrative the history of medical treatment for mental disorders: in her own case this involved electric shock therapy, various medications (Prozac and Lexapro among them), and psychotherapy. In explaining how her illness has “shaped her history,” Cregan uses medical records from her months in the hospital, as well as research on mental illness as she examines the difficult path that led her from hopelessness to wellness, a new marriage, and eventual motherhood. Cregan writes lucidly of her illness and offers hope as well as valuable insights for those living with depression.
The Scar is a memoir unique in my experience: intensely personal, warmly and unflinchingly intimate, yet wide-ranging, informative, even scholarly—beautifully and persuasively written. Unlike any other memoir I have read touching on psychological vulnerability and the risk of suicide, The Scar reaches beyond its immediate subject to provide a cultural and historical context for that most mysterious of afflictions, 'depression'—or, in more Romantic terms, 'melancholia'—making it particularly valuable at the present time."
"A searingly honest and riveting book. In prose that is vivid and exact, Mary Cregan describes her experience of deep depression. With skill and serious research, she also charts changes in the way this illness has been treated by doctors. This is a book that will really matter to anyone who has been through the experiences of depression or who has witnessed the suffering. What makes the book stand out is the sheer clarity of the writing, the personal fragility and the wrestling with demons emerging here with a kind of grace, a hard-won heroism."
"What makes this immensely helpful and beautifully written book so moving is the way the author keeps unpeeling one layer after another of her experience, with such exquisite patience and intelligence that it is impossible not to care or identify with her."
"A truly exceptional book. All those who know depression first-hand will surely recognize themselves in Mary Cregan’s account. This beautifully written and informative work will no doubt be critically important for those who read it."
How does one come to terms with the past? For Cregan (English, Barnard Coll.), that meant writing about it, starting with a depressive episode she experienced after the death of her two-day-old daughter. The author continues by documenting her time in a mental hospital, where she receives electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and attempts suicide; wanting to be helped but believing she could not be helped. Research into her Irish Catholic background leads to a discovery of a family history of depression, along with stoicism and silence around mental illness; "We didn't talk about how we were feeling; we simply made space for the moods and irritability of others." Turning to history and religion for advice, Cregan finds that neither can answer how to respond to the traumatic event of losing a child you didn't know. She details the emotional toll of mental illness, and how her first marriage never recovered from the aftermath of her daughter's death. Later chapters sensitively trace the difficulties of subsequent miscarriages, and ultimately motherhood, with her second husband.
VERDICT While there are quite a few memoirs on depression, Cregan's debut stands out for its personal and profound insights into a subject that can be difficult to grasp. —Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal