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The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia

Santa Fe Reporter - 8/26/2019

The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia

By Marin Sardy

The sketches Marin Sardy references in the title of her memoir inform the author's structural choices in composing the narrative of her family's history with schizophrenia. Though chaptered and composed against a chronological spine, the narrative fragments, associates and weaves together images, ideas and research into a textured and nuanced tapestry that is both deeply personal as well as universally moving.

Sardy grew up in Alaska with a mother whose slide into schizophrenia when the author was 10 created chaos throughout her childhood - a sense of pervasive unsteadiness Sardy conveys through footnotes in a chapter in which she relays and examines a childhood memory of the family balancing eggs on the equinox (a phenomena she's unable to replicate in adulthood). In another chapter, "Conversations with Family," Sardy captures her relatives' responses to questions she posed about her mother's illness, omitting the questions to allow their quotes to create the substratum of narrative.

Her brother Tom began to show signs of schizophrenia in his 20s. Sardy travels with him to Costa Rica, she writes, "so I can watch him closely and see what is happening - if it is happening." Eventually, it becomes clear that it is, indeed, happening, and continues to happen in stages over the next decade. By 2009, Tom is homeless on the streets of Anchorage, while Sardy lives in a variety of places, pursuing her work as a writer (including Santa Fe, where Sardy was an art critic for SFR).

Although her brother's suicide toward the end of the book does not come as a surprise - Sardy lays the groundwork for his death - the sense of inevitability is no less gutting. Throughout his illness, Sardy's work deepened into ongoing study and writing about mental illness (many previous essays appear in some form in this book). Though its terrain is myriad, The Edge of Every Day returns repeatedly to Sardy's quest to understand, to employ, as she writes, the theory of mind, i.e. "the capacity to imagine oneself into the mind of another" regardless of neurology. The book, as a result, is narratively compelling and exquisitely written but, perhaps more importantly, infused with love and empathy. (Julia Goldberg)


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