When writing about schizophrenia, traditional narrative structure feels inadequate. How does one sum up the effects of an illness that bends reality, a “shapeless thief” that distorts our already limited understanding of perception, into a clear beginning, middle and end? Thus, in her debut memoir, Marin Sardy adopts a form entirely her own as she weaves her account of the schizophrenia that trapped her mother in a world of delusions and ultimately took the life of her younger brother, Tom.
Each chapter of The Edge of Every Day could act a stand-alone essay. Some are lists, like one that is constructed solely of excerpts from interviews with multiple family members about her mother that are strung together like a single monologue. Another abandons temporal boundaries and is told in “loops” of time. Certain chapters clearly relate to schizophrenia as Sardy writes honestly about growing up in a house marred by psychosis or recounts how her brother’s mental illness led to homelessness. But other essays are less direct in their connection to the memoir’s central theme as we also learn about the author’s teenage gymnastics career or her experimentation with witchcraft. Yet through the book runs a unifying undercurrent of how Sardy has spent her life toeing the thin line between mental health and mental illness, trying to avoid a pervasive fear of the symptoms that took her mother and brother away manifesting in herself.
With each chapter, the memoir’s deeply personal, first-hand portrayal of schizophrenia is amplified into an indictment of the systemic injustice of how our society treats some the most vulnerable among us. With an expert hand, Marin Sardy breathes life and urgency into her simultaneously intimate and expansive telling of how the echoes of mental illness have reverberated through a family. The Edge of Every Day is, to borrow Sardy’s words, “cosmically, cosmically sad” and an astonishing, essential read. –Jillian Karande
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