UNDERCURRENTS by Martha Manning

UNDERCURRENTS

A Therapist's Reckoning with Depression
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 It is strange to find small joys in a book about depression, but there are many in Manning's tale of her descent into hell. Among a spate of recent memoirs about depression, what defines Manning's first book is her own experience as a psychotherapist: She highlights the strange and humiliating duality of being able to heal others but not herself. Yet Manning's narrative is never clinical; the writing is simple and moving and laced with a sly, self-deprecating wit (she describes herself as a ``professional voyeur''). Depression creeps up on Manning little by little, disguised as laziness and sloth, and blindsides her, throwing her overcommitted life (as therapist, teacher, wife and mother, church- choir member) into disarry; finally, thoughts of suicide become inescapable. A sympathetic therapist of her own, an empathetic psychiatrist, and a silver tray full of antidepressants (her daughter, Keara, cleans out the medicine chest before a party) fail to end ``the slow erosion of the self, as insidious as any cancer. And, like cancer, it is essentially a solitary experience. A room in hell with only your name on the door.'' She finally successfully undergoes electroconvulsive therapy, disturbed to find herself on a psychiatric ward with a crazy young woman she had spied in a restaurant a while back. Manning's road back to health is as long and tortuous as the path that led away from it, requiring reconciliation with both herself and God, who she believed had abandoned her. Despite its focus on herself, Manning's narrative is never claustrophobic; it is full of vibrantly depicted family and friends who bring love and strife: a depressed grandmother, an alcoholic sister, a psychotherapist husband who cannot bear his wife's pain, and independent, spirited Keara (``Mints? Nuts? Antidepressants?'' she asks, holding out her tray of drugs). Admirably honest, beautifully written.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-251183-1
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995




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