Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, and Survival: A Memoir

Jay Neugeboren, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-688-14968-0
Novelist Neugeboren (An Orphan's Tale) has written a detailed, exquisitely painful and always thoughtful account of his younger brother's long struggle with mental illness. He includes scenes from their Brooklyn childhood of constantly warring parents, extremes of love and hatred, of holding on too tightly and rejecting too absolutely. Robert Neugeboren, who was born in 1943, suffers from a variety of disorders, all roughly grouped together under schizophrenia. He has needed long periods of restraint and multiple hospital stays. His 30-year battle has coincided frighteningly with numerous changes in our attitudes toward and treatment of such illness. Shuttled from doctor to doctor, Robert has been dosed with almost every polysyllabic wonder drug that has surfaced. Some worked; some didn't. None offered the ""magic bullet"" that the author hoped and prayed for. Neither did such bizarre fads as putting patients into insulin-induced comas. The narrative touches on the author's parallel life as a writer, academic, divorce and father of two and is shot through with an understandable sense of guilt. Could the family have done more? Would greater financial resources have changed Robert's chances for a normal life? The banal dysfunction of the New York State mental health establishment is horrifying in this portrayal, yet, to most readers of the daily newspaper, totally expected. Nothing is solved here, but Neugeboren's account may bring understanding to those who can barely imagine such horrors and comfort to those who have and have felt alone. Photos. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/02/1997
Release date: 02/01/1997
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