Picks and Pans Review: Imagining Robert
by Jay Neugeboren
After Robert Neugeboren suffers his first mental breakdown in 1962 at 19, his is not the only life changed forever. Over the next three decades, while Robert moves in and out of psychiatric wards—being treated and mistreated first for schizophrenia, then manic depression—his brother and parents seesaw between hope of a magical cure and disappointment at Robert's failure to improve. As doctors alternately blame biology and sociology for his condition, the family's guilt, anger and frustration only deepen.
In this unflinching memoir, older brother Jay, a novelist, details both Robert's struggle to survive and the battles he and his parents wage against an illness that "exhausts, strains and informs all the moments and relations of a family's life." After his father dies and his mother, unable to tolerate Robert's illness any longer, decamps to Florida, Jay assumes rigorous oversight of Robert's hospital care. He is convinced that institutional cruelty and neglect are as responsible for his brother's mental torture as anything else. Though both his story and absurdly long sentences could use pruning, Neugeboren delivers an account that is loving and fascinating. (Morrow, $24)
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