Mockingbird Years a Life in and Out of Therapy

Emily Gordon, Author Basic Books $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-465-02727-9
Psychotherapy can often be a long journey across a series of dull plateaus, punctuated by occasional epiphanic vistas. In Pushcart Prize-winner Gordon's able hands, however, it becomes a long, satisfying adventure, told with sly insight and charming asides. Like Susanna Kaysen, the author of Girl, Interrupted, Gordon was institutionalized as a teenager in the 1960s. During her year-long stay at Austin Riggs, a hospital in Stockbridge, Mass., the James Taylor song ""Mockingbird"" played constantly on the stereos of fellow patients, and became an anthem of her stroll along the periphery of mental anguish (she is never quite emotionally ill enough to cross the border). ""In the place of a conventional moral and cultural education, I was offered therapy, and when the beguiling emptiness of therapy left me hungry for something like spiritual nourishment, I was offered still more therapy,"" she writes. Interwoven with her wry survey of the precocious neediness and confusion that fueled her 20 years of therapy are scenes from her life as a child of the '50s, singing at the piano with her clever, frustrated mother, avoiding her temperamental father, who served on President Kennedy's Council of Economic Advisors, and wistfully dreaming of the colorful life of a mental patient. Though the story of how she achieved--and moved past--her dream may be familiar in outline, Gordon's clear-eyed, candid prose makes it as indelible as Kaysen's. Radio satellite tour. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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