cover image Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness

Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness

Catherine Cho. Holt, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-62371-3

In an eerie, unsettling debut memoir about postpartum psychosis, Cho delves into her 2018 breakdown after the birth of her son, Cato. Cho started showing signs of distress when she and her husband, James, traveled from their home in London to visit James’s parents in New Jersey and threw Cato a traditional Korean party to mark his 100 days of life. As James’s overbearing parents questioned Cho about Cato (“Why wasn’t he rolling yet?”), Cho began losing her grip: she started suspecting she was under surveillance, her son suddenly appeared to have “flashing red pupils,” and she heard voices telling her, “Your son needs to die.” Soon, Cho was involuntarily committed to a psych ward by doctors, where she bobbed in and out of lucidity, tore at her clothes, and saw demons during her 12 days there. The author spends little time on the science behind postpartum psychosis (“the reasons for postpartum psychosis aren’t fully understood”), and punctuates her story with discussions of Korean culture and the pressure Korean families place on mothers and wives to be accommodating; her narrative culminates with Cho getting medicated, then tentatively reestablishing a physical bond with her son and accepting him as her own (“I remembered him... I was a mother again”). This piercing narrative about motherhood and a fraying human mind will slowly and creepily pull the reader in and leave a chill. (Aug.)