cover image A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia

A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia

Sandra Allen. Scribner, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3403-6

In this insightful memoir, Allen, a former BuzzFeed features editor, tracks a relative’s descent into mental illness. In 2009, Allen, who had moved from California to Iowa City to attend the University of Iowa’s creative-nonfiction writing program, received a phone call from her uncle Bob, with whom she had long been out of touch. He explained that he had written a book about his life and that he wanted her to read it. Allen’s extended family had spent time together during vacations at a Minnesota lake when Allen was a child, but over time Allen saw her uncle Bob less frequently, and members of her family referred to him as “crazy.” When the manuscript arrived, Allen didn’t want to deal with it: “It was hideous to look at, even from a distance. Its pages literally reeked.” The manuscript contained incomprehensible ramblings, racial and sexual slurs, and family stories better left untold. In time, she felt compelled to bring his story to the public. She began to edit his writing, and with each rewrite Allen became more engaged with her uncle’s manuscript and his life. Allen builds her uncle’s story on a solid scaffolding of chapters of her family history that alternate with rewritten passages of Bob’s memoir that detail his growing up in Northern California in the 1960s and the state of mental-health care in America at that time as he underwent treatment for schizophrenia. Allen offers readers an incredible glimpse into the life of a person battling with schizophrenia. (Jan.)