The Kevin Show: An Olympic Athlete’s Battle with Mental Illness

Mary Pilon. Bloomsbury, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-63286-682-0
Former New York Times reporter Pilon (The Monopolists) recounts the life story of Kevin Hall, a competitive sailor and two-time cancer survivor whose bipolar disorder makes him think he is the star of a reality TV show. During manic episodes, Kevin hears “the Director” command him to do things on “the Show,” such as drive his car into Boston Harbor (he’s saved when his car hits a fence) or jump off the roof of a tower (a seagull distracts him just in time). Kevin’s delusions have led to arrests, hospitalizations, psychiatric treatments, and struggles with medication, but they’ve also become part of who he is. In a breezily written, sometimes suspenseful narrative, Pilon examines Kevin’s efforts to understand and control his symptoms as he establishes himself as a competitive sailor, taking part in the America’s Cup race and the 2004 Olympics. She observes that, compared to many other mentally ill people, Kevin enjoys a “very privileged support system”; both of his parents and his wife are doctors. Though continual shifts in point of view between Kevin, his family members, and others keep the author from fully developing her ideas, her work draws attention to the toll of mental illness on individuals and their families. Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents. (Mar. 2018)
Reviewed on: 08/28/2017
Release date: 03/06/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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