cover image One Friday in April: A Story of Suicide and Survival

One Friday in April: A Story of Suicide and Survival

Donald Antrim. Norton, $25 (144p) ISBN 978-1-324-00556-8

“A depression is a concavity, a sloping downward and a return. Suicide, in my experience, is not that,” writes MacArthur genius and novelist Antrim (Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World) in this unflinching interrogation of the “social disease” he struggled with for more than a decade. Using his own experience to challenge traditional narratives around suicide, he argues it isn’t an “act or a choice” but instead “a long illness... with origins in trauma and isolation... violence and neglect, in the loss of home and belonging.” In 2006, just before publishing a memoir about his late abusive, alcoholic mother, Antrim came close to, as he puts it, letting himself fall from the fire escape of his four-story apartment building. Four months in a psychiatric institute followed, where, as Antrim relates in lucid prose, he underwent electroconvulsive therapy (it worked, but didn’t keep him out of the hospital long). “Dying in psychosis, in isolation from others, takes place in a kind of eternity,” he observes, as the text—which melts the past and present down into exhaustive lists of his grievances and questions around mental illness—mirrors the psychological “paralysis of suicide.” The light at the end of this painfully eloquent tunnel is the conclusion that no one should venture through the darkness alone. Readers looking to better understand the nuances of mental illness would do well start with this profoundly affecting account. (Oct.)