Contino (Born to Create, 2007) starts her memoir promisingly enough. She writes in the first few pages of the pain she felt when she was invited to the wedding of a close friend’s daughter, but her troubled brother, Bob, was not. Shortly afterward, Bob’s closest friends abandoned him when, at 23, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. As Bob’s sister and caregiver, Contino saw a side of the disease few people understand. Readers might rightfully expect her to pull back the curtain, yet she leaves them in the dark. After offering a few sketchy details of her brother’s diagnosis, she seems to forget that he had schizophrenia. She writes of his unwillingness to pay more than $20 for anything and his refusal to follow doctors’ orders. At times, she shows him to be embarrassingly crude, but as he ages, little in her portrayal suggests he was different from every other grumpy old man—which might be her point. Muddy sentences might irk readers further: “Maybe that was the time I was taking my brother back and forth to the doctor because the medication wasn’t working.” Contino’s greatest strength in an otherwise unsatisfying read is her re-creation of dialogue. Through conversation, Contino conveys the frustration she felt repeatedly imploring Bob to accept medical help as well as the helplessness he felt being put through countless treatments and tests: “ ‘Have mercy on me. Please, have mercy” he screamed over and over until the drug took its effect.”
Startlingly close seat to a man’s ill-starred life, but vague details and poor grammar obstruct the view.