Showing 171 - 180 of 224 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn
The story begins as an MRI technician assures Baily that "Contrary to popular opinion, . . . this is not a torture device." The test was ordered because her arm suddenly went numb and she suddenly lost most of her vision during algebra class. With no idea what's wrong, Baily speculates about the possibility of a brain tumor, about how disease will change her life, about early death. She is uncomfortable with her mother's cheery reassurances, which consist mostly of simple theories like the possibility that Baily was reacting to missing lunch, but wants them, nonetheless.
Since the pediatric wing is full, she is put in a room with an old woman for observation overnight. The nurse runs her through a series of highly irrelevant questions about her physical health from drug use to dentures. Then her mother is required to leave for the night. In the morning they take her for an EKG before her mother can get there; Baily returns to her room in a state of morbid conviction that she's dying, which is finally overturned when the doctor comes in to explain to her that she had a classic case of severe migraine.
This first-person narrative of a runaway girl's short stay in a residential mental health center develops her impressions, resistances, and accommodations from her admission ("I can see right away it's a nuthouse") to her release. These include reluctant interviews with the staff counselor, uncomfortable encounters with nurses, observations of other patients' erratic behavior, and efforts, finally, to communicate with a very detached roommate.
"Stevie" speaks from a place of anger and mistrust. She attempted suicide in the girl's bathroom by slicing her wrists, but regards herself as otherwise quite competent. A turning point comes for her when her silent roommate sings a song she's written which ends with the words, "Don't forget to cry." This moment of vulnerability, which also unveils surprising talent and beauty, moves Stevie from anger toward curiosity and sympathy.
She takes steps toward friendship with her roommate, and finally toward reconciliation with her mother who, she realizes, really wants her home. As she leaves, Zena really addresses her for the first time, reminding her, "Don't forget to cry."
Divided into three titled sections: "What Man Might Kill," "The Nurse's Task," and "The Body Flute," the poems in this volume detail moments in the life of a nurse who is also a mother who once [in imagination] dragged her daughter from a wrecked and burning car; a daughter who stood on the stairs and listened to her mother's voice; and a lover who is aware of how her own trained clinical gaze and the gaze of desire sometimes intersect.
The poems range from a whimsical reverse-reel footage of memories that reach back to the moment of conception in "The Smoke We Make Pictures Of" to a scene from childhood when she was rushed to the hospital and came home vowing to love like the "women in white bright enough to burn / running with me in their arms"--a love she describes as "Fierce. / Physical," to a poem that imagines the life of the murderer, to poems that let us into the intimacy of a nurse keeping vigil by the dying, cleaning shriveled bodies, attending women giving birth. "I Hear the Cries of Women" is a litany of memories of "Women in the clinic waiting room" who "wanted to please / wanted to be whole / had no choice / couldn't speak / wasn't heard."
Stark and striking, these poems revel in language that calls suffering by its many names. They alter the distances we keep on pain, reframe what we are repelled by and honor the gritty, sometimes gory work of nurses who are willing to imagine the lives of their patients and lean close over the stink of decay to bless the dying.
Fourteen-year-old Kelly is torn between being "best friend" to her mother, who, though she is sprightly and lovely, seems to have withdrawn from adult relationships, and pursuing her own friendships and life at school. Her father, a pilot, is gone from home a lot of the time, so she and her mother live a fairly isolated life.
It is not until her mother is suddenly whisked off to the hospital at the end of one of the father's visits that Kelly learns there is something seriously wrong with her. No one, however, will tell her precisely what happened or what's wrong. She is sent to her grandmother's in Florida to wait out her mother's hospitalization, and for a time isn't even allowed to communicate with her mother by phone.
Eventually she learns that her mother is clinically depressed and has been suicidal. In the meantime she learns a great deal about coping with loneliness, uncertainty, and new adult relationships, with a strait-laced grandmother and a senile grandfather as well as a disabled young man, a neighbor in Florida, who takes her seriously and helps her find a new self-assurance in spite of--or perhaps in part because of--her difficult circumstances. Faced with a choice of boarding school or returning to a mother still in gradual recovery, Kelly firmly opts to live with her mother and learn about both the responsibilities and the limits of caring for a parent who needs love but not co-dependency.
Skye Johnson, a high school swimmer, is training for state finals when a new boyfriend distracts her from her single-minded pursuit of athletic championships. As the romance begins to turn abusive, she finds her boyfriend becoming more of a problem in her life than her brother, who has Down's syndrome, and who accompanies her almost everywhere because he needs supervision.
Her divorced, single mother holds down two jobs and can't be home to care for Sunny, the brother, so he has been largely Skye's responsibility since she entered high school. Sunny wants to learn to swim. Skye knows he is teachable, and could be prepared for the Special Olympics, but doesn't want to devote time to training him, so she secretly arranges to give him lessons with her babysitting money.
A serious confrontation with her boyfriend leaves her with an injured hand which prevents her swimming in the state competition, but which, it turns out, allows her to be present when Sunny swims in the Special Olympics. She finds herself deeply proud of him, and able to see again why she loves this brother whom she's regarded for some time largely as a burden.
This memoir of a clinical psychologist (also a professor of psychology) chronicles her own depression over a period of a year and a half, from early symptoms, through near despair, electroconvulsive therapy, and hospitalization to recovery. The journey is detailed, not only in its treatment of her emotional states, but of her struggle to maintain family and professional life, keep her house and office organized, and attend to a dying friend.
As her bouts of panic and disorientation grow more apparent, first to herself and finally to others, she seeks refuge in spiritual retreats and in conversation with colleagues, ultimately submitting to treatment. She names the emotional "undercurrents" suggested in the book's title with moving precision: panic over sudden disorientation, anxiety about what to keep secret, frustration with her own unreliability, dread of small duties and ordinary appointments, heartache over her faltering efforts to be a good and present mother.
The consent to hospitalization costs a great deal in humility, in risking a controversial treatment, and in letting go of a professional persona she doesn't know whether she'll be able to retrieve. But clearly the book is written by a woman whose clarity is a testimony to regained mental health and exceptional intellectual clarity. It is not a professional record, but an intensely personal memoir of what was both an encounter with serious mental illness and a spiritual journey.
Marina, a fourteen-year-old recently transferred from a mental hospital to a boarding school, can't speak. Her muteness is a reaction to trauma; in a moment of fury at her mother, her father threw photographic acid in the car window and, instead of hitting his wife, hit his daughter's face. Severely scarred, both inside and outside, resentful of her mother and bewildered by her father's pain, anger, and now imprisonment for assault, she records her daily life tentatively in a journal assigned, but not read by, a favorite English teacher at her new school.
The girls in her dorm have been apprised of her problem and treat her mostly with respect, but only one of them is fully able to keep making the moves that open a door to friendship. Despite Marina's silence, even in sessions with the school counselor, she begins to heal as she makes her journal (the text of the story) a safe place, allows herself to be included in the family lives of her teacher and friend, and finally summons the courage to visit her father, with whom she retrieves the language she needs, finding, as the title suggests, she has "so much to tell him."
Gabriel McCloud, 18, has just been killed by driving his truck into a tree while intoxicated. The small town goes into shock. The chapters of the novel are narrated successively by key people in Gabriel's life: his girlfriend; a teacher who saw his potential and gave him extra chances he needed; his embittered and violent father; his two brothers, an uncle who has been estranged from the family for years; the son of the local mortician; a buddy; the sheriff. Each of them goes through a particular kind of shock, grief, and reflection following the loss.
Jennie, Gabriel's girlfriend, pregnant with Gabriel's baby, decides to take herself to the beach and commit suicide. She sits for some time on a rock that will soon be buried by the rising tide, but is eventually spotted and rescued by a man she has feared and despised: Gabriel's father. The various voices that give us vantage points on Gabriel's difficult life and violent death testify also to how important even the life of a somewhat wayward, underachieving, confused teenager can be to a community of people who recognize him, some belatedly, as a gift.
Ten-year-old Becky Zaslow is diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) just before her class talent show. The sudden changes in her world include a hospital roommate whose experience with chemotherapy has left her rude and embittered; a lively nurse who levels with her; and parents who react strongly and differently to her illness. Even though the treatments leave her bald and weakened, she shows up at the talent show just before her bone marrow transplant, to the acclaim of all but one of her classmates.
A key coping strategy for Becky is an increasingly vivid fantasy life in which she finds friends among a herd of zebras and one monkey. Holding her stuffed zebra, she "travels" to Africa to escape the pain and trauma of treatments. Gradually she loses ground; as her body gives way, her mind and spirit move increasingly to the other world where an old zebra offers wisdom and help for the crossing she is about to make. She dies, leaving behind a journal that becomes her younger brother's incentive to learn to read, a task he has been resisting.
Raina is 17, living alternately on the streets with a boyfriend addicted to hard drugs and at home with an abusive mother, also an addict. She has been victimized by a succession of her mother's live-in boyfriends and lost a young brother to an accidental overdose: he swallowed some of his mother's pills while the mother slept and seven-year-old Raina was watching him.
Margaret Johnson is 45, Raina's teacher at an underfunded, overcrowded public school where Raina's life of squalor is more typical than not. Her own story is told in chapters that alternate with Raina's story and with the texts of autobiographical compositions Raina gives her but refuses to discuss. Only when Raina finds herself pregnant, shortly after her boyfriend has been killed in a drug-related accident, does she take Ms. Johnson up on her repeated offers of help.
She lives at the teacher's home for awhile, runs away to her own home, unused to kind treatment and afraid she'll disappoint the teacher and be thrown out, goes to a shelter, has her baby, and finally returns, having nowhere to go. Ms. Johnson, with some hesitation, takes her and the baby in and the three begin to work out a life together, knowing it will involve difficult change, but willing to bet on love against the odds.