Aug 22, 2008


the Story of a Psychotic Episode
by Ellen Wolfe

I picked this book up at random when visiting the Book Thing one day. First glance at the title I thought it had something to do with earthquakes; was I ever wrong! Aftershock is set in New York during the 1960s, the story of a woman who had a nervous breakdown and spent a month in a mental hospital, where she received electroshock therapy. The book begins at the end of her stay in the hospital, and describes in a quiet, conversational tone her attempts to resume normal life at home. It's very difficult, because her memory is in a terrible state. She can't remember who she spoke to yesterday, how to make breakfast for her children, that she and her husband are about to buy their first house. She can't even recall the incident that led to her admittance in the hospital, and is constantly afraid of running into people who know what happened, while she has no idea who they are or what she might have said to them while in her prior "manic state". Following through her days of bewilderment and frustration, I was waiting for the revelation of what had led to her nervous breakdown. It wasn't what I expected at all, and for several pages the book became a discussion of morality and abortion.

It was very interesting to me to see how this book reflected its times, especially the attitudes held by and towards women. I was rather dismayed to see how prevalent the use of electroshock therapy was- one statement said that this book details an experience faced by millions of families every year. That seems like a high number to me.

Rating: 3/5                   216 pages, 1969

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