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Rescuing Patty Hearst :
"Nineteen seventy-four was a bad time to go crazy," reads the gripping first line in this thoroughly unique memoir by Virginia Holman, a frequent contributor to magazines such as Redbook and Self. But despite that sentence and the suggestion of the title (Patty Hearst is a metaphor here, not a character), this work of "creative nonfiction" is extremely personal rather than generational. As with The Liar's Club by Mary Karr (whose Spartan but poetic prose Holman sometimes recalls), the strength of Rescuing Patty Hearst is that it finds universality in a very specific situation and story.
One year after the famous heiress's celebrated kidnapping, in the midst of Watergate and the other turbulent events of America's most misunderstood era, the author's mother retreated with her two daughters to a rustic cabin in rural Virginia, thoroughly convinced that the voices in her head were directing her to establish a field hospital in preparation for a cataclysmic war that never came. The book proceeds to chart Mrs. Holman's extended and heartbreakingly sad battle with schizophrenia, and its impact on her seemingly typical middle-class American family. The author's response progresses from detached bemusement, to horror and revulsion, and to a warm understanding and acceptance without ever becoming callous, maudlin, or romantic. Her recollections make for a consistently riveting story, while leaving the reader with a deep and profound understanding of the true tragedies and frustrating complexities of severe mental illness. --Jim DeRogatis [via]