cover image This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression

This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression

Daphne Merkin. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-14036-6

Merkin’s deeply intimate account of living with clinical depression is illuminating, heartbreaking, and powerfully written. With lively prose and shrewd observations, Merkin (Dreaming of Hitler) examines the contending discourses on the potential causes of depression as she bravely exposes her lifelong struggle with suicidal thoughts and attempts to overcome them. Merkin arrives at no easy conclusions about childhood trauma or biological circumstances. She writes candidly about her lonely childhood with Holocaust survivor parents who were forced to fight their own demons. Despite her family’s wealth, Merkin and her siblings were subjected to austerity and abusive caretakers, and their mother was emotionally absent. Merkin’s exploration into her complicated yet unconditional devotion to her mother is rendered with compassion and profound perception. The book is not without humor or hope as Merkin takes readers on the journey from childhood to the present, and into her passion for literature. She writes about the past—such as the time when she was a young, aspiring writer who stayed with Saul Bellow at his summer home—into the present with the same astute eye. She also relates her experience with different treatments for depression, including the early days of Prozac and her frequent hospitalizations. Merkin eloquently blends the personal with the researched; her intellectual tenacity and emotional rawness impress as much as they entertain. This book is a wonderful addition to literature about the unrelenting battle against depression. (Feb.)