WHERE THE ROOTS REACH FOR WATER by Jeffery Smith

WHERE THE ROOTS REACH FOR WATER

A Personal and Natural History of Melancholia

KIRKUS REVIEW

A provocative, poetic foray into melancholia from both a personal and historical perspective. While working as a psychiatric caseworker in Missoula, Minn., first-time author Smith is thrust into a depression that even the newest antidepressants can—t alleviate. In attempting to understand his melancholia, Smith researches this mystifying condition, which continues to afflict people worldwide. Regardless of how it originates, concludes Smith, clinical depression results from biochemical changes in the brain. And half of those with one episode relapse within 18 months, while some will be plagued by depression for life. Smith is particularly effective in describing his own depression, when everyday details overwhelm him and his only company is “Mr. Shoulder,” who monitors his every thought and mood to the point of paralyzing him. He writes “that my life felt distant even to me.” Also intriguing is Smith’s chronicle of society’s changing views of depression. In Renaissance Europe, in Elizabethan England, and to the 19th-century Romantics in Germany and Great Britain, depressive illness was deemed a great gift. People even feigned melancholia, because it was considered an experience that deepened and enriched one’s soul. With our society’s emphasis on productivity, depression is regarded as an unwelcome intrusion that is costly to corporate America. The contemporary solution is a quick fix that allows expedient return to the marketplace. And it’s this quick chemical fix that troubles Smith. Only when he abandons medication and allows his illness to awaken him spiritually and metaphysically does he conquer his depression. Smith continues to take jobs to help others with psychological problems and brain injuries, and is critical of patients— families “who preferred the memory [of the victim when healthy] to the present reality—[and whose] spouses had all filed for divorce.” Brimming with insight and intelligence, an endearing memoir. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-86547-542-3
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999




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