In the second volume of her trilogy of memoirs (which begins with American Girl and ends with Speaking with Strangers), Mary Cantwell, a former fashion magazine editor and writer, describes her marriage, the birth of her two daughters, her career advancements, and her divorce, with Manhattan in the 1950s as the backdrop.


While this book overall may not be particularly instructive for medical students or physicians, there are two sections that would be well worth excerpting. The first is at the end of part two, chapter 2, where Cantwell describes experiencing her first migraine and the response of the hospital physician who attends her. After diagnosing her problem, he tells her the "cure" is "a psychiatrist." Desperate for relief, she sees a psychiatrist--who calls her husband the next day to reveal his assessment of her underlying problem.

The second instructive--and wrenching--section is in part four, chapter 2, in which she describes her bout with severe postpartum depression after the birth of her first child. She is terrified that she will kill her baby (and herself), but the doctors and nurses at the hospital cannot comprehend her terror, and she is unable to talk with her husband about her feelings ("I would not bathe her. My husband did. He thought I was afraid she would slip. I was afraid I would push."). She recovers, although the pain of the ordeal clearly remained with her for the rest of her life.


This edition is three volumes in one.

Primary Source

Manhattan Memoir


Penguin Books

Place Published

New York



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