A woman reconnects with her schizophrenic brother when he reappears in her life after a 20-year absence in this debut memoir, written with novelist Jones (Choke Hold, 2017, etc.).
Call Richmond Jr. disappeared from Greenville, Georgia, just days after his mother died from an overdose in 1977. He’d recently dropped out of Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, and was thought of as a “cheerful but disturbed and misunderstood young man”; at the time, he’d not yet been diagnosed with schizophrenia. For the next two decades, he became a drifter, hopping trains and making rare contact with his family members, never divulging his whereabouts. His 1997 return to Greenville was as abrupt as his departure had been. Schaper, Call’s sister, received a telephone call from her mother-in-law, who told her that Call was on her doorstep. The memoir recalls the author’s efforts to help her sibling, including taking him to the barber and clipping his “half inch too long” toenails, making sure that he had the right medical care, and getting him set up in an apartment. Schaper filmed each of her meetings with him, which she incorporated into an award-winning 2012 documentary, A Sister’s Call. In this book, she reflects on those events and charts her own search for catharsis. Her writing expresses her unfaltering, sisterly devotion and her will to understand her brother: “I decided I had to be his voice until he was able to find his own.” The author addresses the stigma of mental illness head-on, even detailing how her own family was wary of Call. At the same time, she’s open about growing up with an abusive father who suffered from PTSD and a mother who, like Call, experienced auditory hallucinations, which she tried to suppress with alcohol. The book also addresses the hereditary component of mental illness when Schaper’s daughter is diagnosed with an eating disorder. The power of this memoir lies in the way it demystifies mental health issues by examining them from a deeply personal perspective. Individuals and families facing similar experiences will certainly find solace from it. (Includes black-and-white family photos.)
A moving, passionate personal narrative of trauma and healing.