CITY OF ONE by M.D. Cournos


A Memoir
Email this review


A poignant, affecting memoir of growing up orphaned and its injurious impact on adulthood. Cournos (Clinical Psychiatry/Columbia Univ.) unfolds with painful honesty the story of a childhood marked by loss. Young Francine barely knew her father, who died after a brief illness when she was three. Within a few years, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. By the time she was 11, the author had seen the cancer devour her mother while everyone around her seemed to deny the illness. Her younger brother had been placed in foster care earlier, and soon after her mother’s death, she and her sister were turned over to the Jewish Child Care Association by close relatives. This final abandonment is today the most perplexing to the author. “I don—t think any amount of reflection will ever allow me to understand why my relatives were so lacking in any sense of empathy or responsibility,” she writes. At the time, 11-year-old Francine assumed she was to blame; being abandoned once again was surely a just punishment for something terrible that she had done. She could only feel valued at school, where her excellence won recognition and respect. Education and perseverance gained her a doctorate and a career as a practicing psychiatrist. This is not the happy ending, however: Surrounded by respectful colleagues, married to a loving, supportive husband, the mother of a vibrant daughter, the adult Cournos suffers a major clinical depression. It worsens from a panic to a debilitating darkness when she refuses to take medication because —[that] would prove what I feared most all along, I—m damaged and defective.” It took Cournos eight months to recover. Now stabilized by Prozac and no longer fearing impending disaster, she finds peace and productivity. Inspiring, insightful, and thoroughly engaging, offering hope and awareness to all who have experienced pivotal losses. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-393-04731-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1999


NonfictionTO THE END OF JUNE by Cris Beam
by Cris Beam