My Brother's Madness: A Memoir

Paul Pines, Author . Curbstone $15.95 (318p) ISBN 978-1-931896-34-4

In this gracefully written memoir, poet and novelist (and practicing psychotherapist) Pines narrates his and his younger brother's lives through the matrix of his brother's mental illness. A bright and sensitive child, Claude Pines was damaged by his parents' divorce, an unstable mother and relentless persecution at the hands of his father's monstrous second wife. The story alternates between scenes from the Pines brothers' childhood and Claude's descent into paranoid schizophrenia, an illness that began to assert itself when Claude was a promising medical student and which inexorably drove him into a marginal life. The author deftly handles the complex structure, and the writing compels with rich characters, black humor and clear evocations of locales ranging from an upper-class Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1950s to the drug-blighted Alphabet City of Manhattan's Lower East Side of the 1960s. Paul Pines resists making easy diagnoses and illustrates the complicated relationship between environmental and hereditary causes for a disease like Claude's. While the narrative loses some of its intensity over its last third as Claude slowly remakes himself as spokesperson for his fellow sufferers and Paul settles into a solid middle-class life, it remains engaging throughout. Never descending into easy sentimentality, Pines portrays the family tragedy of mental illness and the bare possibility of redemption we have in this life. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 07/23/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
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