THINGS THAT HELPED by Jessica Friedmann


On Postpartum Depression
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A writer with a history of depression and anxiety plunges deeper into the abyss following the birth of her son.

This memoir, structured as a series of interlinked essays, begins with Friedmann at a river, intending, at least in her mind, to drown herself; it ends with her return to a river, her son a little older, her mind a little clearer, and her attitude sunnier. “With the aid of medication and self-care, I was learning to forge new neural pathways,” she writes. The rest of the book is devoted to other things that helped, including a strong, supportive marriage with a loving husband; the music of Antony and the Johnsons and then Anohni, the woman whom Antony has become; the feminist criticism of Siri Hustvedt and others; the inspiration Friedmann received from dance and the movies she watched repeatedly; and the recognition that she was not alone and that what she was experiencing had been experienced and survived by others, many of whom lacked the resources she enjoyed. When she is thinking more clearly, the author offers acute analysis, blurring distinctions that are too common and simple: “Illness and health, movement and inertia; they are not dialectically opposed, but constantly approaching and retreating from one another, overlaying each other, coexisting.” Yet in the depths of her depression, the author felt that she had lost her grip on the lifeline of language, that motherhood had subsumed her, and that she would be incapable of resuming her roles as a writer and editor or balancing her own professional ambitions against her husband’s. She never succumbs to sentimentality in these pages even when it’s obvious how much she loves (or has learned to love) her son and how fortunate she feels for all that she has.

Well-rendered essays that make readers think and feel deeply.

Pub Date: April 10th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-374-27480-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2018


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