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Named one of the Most Anticipated of Books of 2021 by The Literary Hub and The Millions
A searing and brave memoir that offers a new understanding of suicide as a distinct mental illness.
As the sun lowered in the sky one Friday afternoon in April 2006, acclaimed author Donald Antrim found himself on the roof of his Brooklyn apartment building, afraid for his life. In this moving memoir, Antrim vividly recounts what led him to the roof and what happened after he came back down: two hospitalizations, weeks of fruitless clinical trials, the terror of submitting to ECT—and the saving call from David Foster Wallace that convinced him to try it—as well as years of fitful recovery and setback.
One Friday in April reframes suicide—whether in thought or action—as an illness in its own right, a unique consequence of trauma and personal isolation, rather than the choice of a depressed person. A necessary companion to William Styron’s classic Darkness Visible, this profound, insightful work sheds light on the tragedy and mystery of suicide, offering solace that may save lives.
"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.