2020 Reading Challenge

2020 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 6 books toward her goal of 240 books.

Book Review: Gorilla and the Bird by Zack McDermott

“…there is a real, and very important, distinction between sanity and lucidity”

I have long been fascinated by stories about mental health and the myriad ways our brains can betray us. It always seemed to me to be the ultimate betrayal – when you cannot trust yourself to be yourself, what on earth can you trust? In this amazing story, Zack transitions from a successful Public Defender helping those who cannot help themselves to a man suffering from a psychotic break who cannot be trusted to take care of himself. The transition is a startling one – it happens in the flip of a page (in reality, several weeks), and the shift is both inexplicable and terrifying. As the book unfolds, his family and childhood history are gradually explained and the shift seems less inexplicable – but never any less terrifying.

“It all felt too good. I knew I was flying too close to the sun. But that’s the problem with feeling good – nobody ever says ‘I feel really good. No, like really, really good. I need to stop feeling this good – time to change something here.'”

“‘You will be okay’ means you’re in an abyss right now, and I got nothing for you. You never get step-by-step instructions for emerging from the abyss.”

Zack’s journey (he’s the eponymous Gorilla) is brutal and heart-breaking. Equally so is the effect that it has on his mother (the Bird). The ups and downs are a roller-coaster ride into, through, and out of hell, as Zack undergoes commitment at multiple facilities – each of which is a hell of its own. This is not a tale for the faint of heart; it is stark and depressing and scary to see how someone’s brain can turn on them and take them down such a long dark tunnel. It took tremendous courage to write this memoir – courage that Zack and his mother obviously have in spades, since they’ve survived thus far. It’s a darkly beautiful testimony to survival and the strength that people find within themselves when life derails their carefully constructed world so completely, leaving a trail of devastation a mile wide behind it… Here’s hoping they both manage to regain – and, most importantly, retain – their footing along the way.

My review copy was provided by NetGalley.

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