The Edge of Every Day is the memoir of a woman who comes from a “multiplex” family, in which schizophrenia is manifested in successive generations.  

The book consists of a series of essays.  Some, on topics ranging from gymnastics to building altars, were first published independently and do not appear (at least at first glance) to be linked. The choppy effect this produces speaks to the disorganized thinking that psychotic persons experience.  Other essays propel the tragic narrative of family members slipping into psychosis. At the age of ten, the author Marin Sardy, watches as the “shapeless thief” of schizophrenia steals her mother’s personality away.  Later, as she reaches her thirties, she witnesses her younger brother succumb to an even more pernicious illness.   

Despite Sardy’s mother’s conspicuous symptoms, (she advises her daughter to move to Pluto and informs her that her father has been swept away in a tsunami and replaced by another man), she functions just well enough to avoid being compelled to accept treatment. Thus, no one can stop her from going through a large inheritance and becoming destitute.  

Sardy’s brother Tom suffers his first psychotic break in his 20’s and then rapidly deteriorates.  He repeatedly “cheeks” his meds and falls through the cracks of Anchorage’s mental health system. The author and her family scour the streets, hoping to lure him inside for a shower or hot meal. As the weather worsens, they can only hope he will land in prison if it means not being exposed to the Alaskan elements.  Ultimately, the young man, who once sailed through college with A’s, commits suicide in the bathroom of a psychiatric facility. 


This book raises issues that are bound to resonate with family members of the chronically mentally ill.  The Sisyphean task of caring for an individual whose lack of insight causes him to put up every possible roadblock, in the face of scanty resources, will be devastatingly familiar to many.  

At first the Sardy family keeps a roof over Tom’s head.  However, he fails repeatedly to follow through with treatment and his abusive behaviors take a toll on Tom’s father.  Tom is forced to leave and the locks are changed. Sardy considers this “coercion” to be “an impossible bargain” (p 163). At one point Tom camps out under a boat across the street from the family home.  In desperation the author contemplates irrational choices: “In wild, fleeing moments I considered moving back to Anchorage, to work at a café…and spend my free time convincing Tom to come back inside” (p. 212).   

All the support groups, legal consultations and meetings with doctors give the family more knowledge but do nothing to ameliorate Tom’s situation. Sardy notes, ironically, that housing and treatment programs which might have kept her brother going have been implemented in Anchorage since his death. Throughout this worthy book she captures the catch-22’s inherent in these circumstances with poignancy and grace.  


Marin Sardy has become a de facto advocate for families of the mentally ill and for accurate depictions of the mentally ill in the media.  See the following articles:   


Pantheon Books

Place Published

New York



Page Count