Monday, October 15, 2012

January First

For some reason, I thought this was a novel until I started reading and realized it’s a memoir. Oops. It actually reads like a novel in many ways, with an intriguing narrative and tight writing. The raw emotion spilling forth from it surprised me though. Usually people, even those writing memoirs, step back and don’t put quite everything out there the way Michael Schofield does.
The book is about Michael’s young daughter’s descent into madness. From the time she was three it was clear she had mental issues, but it took a long time to determine exactly what because of her age. The family had to deal with her wild behavior and the uncertainty of how to fix it. The cover explains that it’s schizophrenia, which is rarely diagnosed in children and is why it took so long to diagnose her. It’s also extremely difficult to distinguish a typical child’s fascination with playing pretend and creating imaginary friends and a schizophrenic’s hallucinations.
Young January becomes worse after the birth of her baby brother, and she often lashes out at him, violently attacking him and her parents. I cannot imagine dealing with what this family goes through. They have to protect their son from January and can’t get through to her. At first, they think it’s just an extreme version of a child misbehaving, but then know it has to be something more. They love their daughter and want to take care of her, but how can they do that and keep their son safe? Who believes them when they talk about how hard she is to handle?
Reading about the family’s experience with medical professionals was extremely frustrating. I would lose my mind if I to deal with what they did, and this book would scare me off having kids if I wasn’t already sure of decision not to have them.
There’s something that bugs me about Michael though. Despite his focus on helping his daughter, I just don’t like him. I think it’s the way he treats his wife. I’m a bit shocked that they’re still married after the way he tended to portray her. Although since at one point he admits they went two years without kissing, they don’t seem to have much of a marriage anyway. Everything is focused on the kids. I understand circumstances drove them to that, but if I were her, I’d be pissed about the book. He lifted himself up as January’s savior, while the evil wife just wants to lock her up.
I recommend this book if you’re interested in mental illness or like memoirs about people working through difficult circumstances. I read this at a good time because Ryan is currently taking a class on teaching students with special needs, and that came up in the book because they try to keep January in mainstream classes. It was interesting to talk to him about how they handled things and issues he may have to deal with once he’s a teacher.


  1. I wasn't really a fan of either parent, but I just chalked it up to the effects of the horrible situation they were in. I think his honesty about his own actions probably have something to do with it too - he doesn't seem to hold anything back. I kept thinking I would have parented her so differently, but then I'm sure it's one of those situations that you can never know how you'll react until you're in the middle of it. So far my kiddos are healthy in all ways (and hopefully stay that way so I never have to go through those horrors).

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