Written with controlled elegance, this is an absorbing autobiographical account of psychiatric hospitalization. Twenty-five years after the fact, the author describes the two years during her late adolescence in which she "slip[ped] into a parallel universe." The surreal nature of the experience is reflected in darkly comedic recollections of her inner life, the other patients, their families, the staff, and of forays into the outside world.


From her unique perspective, Kaysen raises the question expressed in Dickinson's poem, Much madness is divinest sense (see this database), i.e. how does society identify the insane. Are those who choose to live outside of accepted behavioral norms insane or do they become more vulnerable because of the resulting social isolation? Further, she shows how narrow may be the edge between a functional and non-functional life.


Random House: Turtle Bay

Place Published

New York



Page Count