RATING: 3.5 STARS
She’s Not Herself: A Psychotherapist’s Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother’s Mental Illness is Linda A. Shapiro’s memoir of growing up with a mother who suffered from severe depression or bipolar disorder. Growing up in a wealthy family, as a first generation Jew in New York, her father is oblivious of the emotional damage Linda and her brother suffers on a daily basis. Her father’s explanation for her mother’s erratic behavior is that “She’s having one of those days.” She delves into the devastating effects her mother’s illness had upon her own self-image and self-worth. Over time, Linda overcame her problems and marries, has children and becomes a successful Psychologist.
Occasionally the writing is dense, yet it’s an insightful, heart-wrenching memoir of growing up with a mentally ill mother.
I received a copy of the book from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.
Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
RATING: 2 STARS
Hausfrau begins with Anna Benz, a thirty-seven year old bored American expat housewife living in Switzerland, has a passionate affair with an American man, while her Swiss husband works as a banker at Credit Suisse. A series of meaningless affairs continue after her lover abandons her and returns to the United States. Anna has everything materially, yet she’s emotionally unfulfilled.
Essbaum is a skilled writer, yet Hausfrau read like a 19th century narrative trope in a modern setting. Anna is weak and feeble, paralysed to move forward and unable to overcome her fears. I couldn’t connect with her emotionally because I didn’t have a reason to care about her.
After living in Switzerland for nine years, Anna doesn’t make any attempt to assimilate into Swiss life. She doesn’t drive, she speaks a bare minimum of German and Schwiizerdütsch (Swiss-German) and she’s unable to deal with the most basic of bureaucratic paperwork – her own residency permit. All of the family’s house related issues are managed by her husband. She’s as helpless as a Victorian housewife. During one her psychoanalysis sessions, she has an awakening when her Dr. explains her reluctance to learn German is actually a reflection of her inability to assimilate into the Swiss culture. Despite this realization, she remains frozen in fear without making any changes in her life.
I pushed to get through to the end of the novel, hoping it would get better, but it continued to drag on. The ending was predictable and anti-climatic.
* A copy of the book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**