(Simon & Schuster)
Reading at Powell's, 1005 W. Burnside, Wed 7:30 pm, free
When I peruse the new book selections looking for something to read, I've noticed one thing: everyone is churning out a book about their horrible parents, be it their mean alcoholic father, their crummy neglectful mother, or both. I find this annoying. A whole lot of people have less than perfect parents, so why are these stories any different?
In Virginia Holman's memoir, Rescuing Patty Hearst, we explore a meatier version of the typical "I was wronged by my parents" tale. Thank God. During her childhood, at the same time the Patty Hearst abduction/brainwashing scandal was taking place, Holman's mother (known as "Gingie") was going crackers with schizophrenia. Most of the story takes place after Gingie has gone psychotic and moved Holman and her sister to the family summer cabin. According to Gingie, the reason they are at the cabin is to set up a field hospital for children of war. But they're in a small town in Virginia, so that's obviously not the case.
With Holman's father and family unable to diagnose the problem, she and her sister are constantly subjected to the wiles of a madwoman. They must do army drills, spend money on supplies, paint the windows black, etc. This goes on for three years. After that, the book transgresses into an exploration of the difficulties of having someone committed.
Holman's story, told in the first person, is depressing, but doesn't ask for pity. It is more a chronicle of how confusing, and of course, infuriating it can be for a kid living with a schizophrenic. Most compelling are the parts of the book where Holman talks about wishing that her mother would just leave, or even die, so the family won't have to deal with her anymore. It shows clearly how schizophrenia, in a lot of ways, is worse than death, especially on the family of the schizophrenic.
At the end of the novel, you get the distinct impression that Holman's life has been irrevocably effected by the time spent with her mother; and no doubt, it's for the worse. But it's the severity of the effects, and the weight and details of her memories, that make this book such a compelling read. KATIE SHIMER