Hurry Down Sunshine: A Father's Memoir of Love and Madness

Michael Greenberg

Hurry Down Sunshine: A Father's Memoir of Love and Madness

One summer evening Michael Greenberg's daughter Sally was brought home by the police after rushing into a busy road in Greenwich Village, convinced she could halt the oncoming traffic. The mania had come over her abruptly: her habit of poring obsessively over poems late into the night or listening to music on her battered walkman for hours could be considered 'normal' teenage behaviour, and yet it was a clue to the internal tumult that was about to overwhelm her. Now her behaviour had moved from the realm of the adolescent and eccentric to the acutely unstable, and she needed professional help. And so just a few days later Michael found himself in the surreal world of a Manhattan psychiatric ward during the city's most sweltering months. Confused, anxious, looking for answers, he asked himself whether he was to blame. Perhaps this illness had been Sally's genetic inheritance. Perhaps, as a writer, he hadn't been able to provide the secure and stable home she needed. Sally's mother had left some time ago, finding life in the city suffocating, and his new wife, Pat, had not found it easy building a relationship with his clever, headstrong daughter.But looking around him at the other concerned families in the waiting room, he began to realise that the answers to his questions were not so simple. Touching, memorable and unsentimental, Hurry Down Sunshine is partly an exploration of what mental illness has come to mean in our culture, and partly a memoir about how one family learns to cope with the prejudice and uncertainty that faces those affected by it. 4.4 out of 5 based on 10 reviews
Hurry Down Sunshine: A Father's Memoir of Love and Madness

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Psychology & Psychiatry, Health & Medical
Format Hardback
Pages 240
RRP £12.99
Date of Publication March 2009
ISBN 978-0747591481
Publisher Bloomsbury
 

One summer evening Michael Greenberg's daughter Sally was brought home by the police after rushing into a busy road in Greenwich Village, convinced she could halt the oncoming traffic. The mania had come over her abruptly: her habit of poring obsessively over poems late into the night or listening to music on her battered walkman for hours could be considered 'normal' teenage behaviour, and yet it was a clue to the internal tumult that was about to overwhelm her. Now her behaviour had moved from the realm of the adolescent and eccentric to the acutely unstable, and she needed professional help. And so just a few days later Michael found himself in the surreal world of a Manhattan psychiatric ward during the city's most sweltering months. Confused, anxious, looking for answers, he asked himself whether he was to blame. Perhaps this illness had been Sally's genetic inheritance. Perhaps, as a writer, he hadn't been able to provide the secure and stable home she needed. Sally's mother had left some time ago, finding life in the city suffocating, and his new wife, Pat, had not found it easy building a relationship with his clever, headstrong daughter.But looking around him at the other concerned families in the waiting room, he began to realise that the answers to his questions were not so simple. Touching, memorable and unsentimental, Hurry Down Sunshine is partly an exploration of what mental illness has come to mean in our culture, and partly a memoir about how one family learns to cope with the prejudice and uncertainty that faces those affected by it.

Reviews

The New York Review of Books

Oliver Sacks

In its detail, depth, richness, and sheer intelligence, Hurry Down Sunshine will be recognized as a classic of its kind... But what makes it unique is the fact that so much here is seen through the eyes of an extraordinarily open and sensitive parent—a father who, while never descending into sentimentality, has remarkable insight into his daughter's thoughts and feelings, and a rare power to find images or metaphors for almost unimaginable states of mind.

25/09/2008

Read Full Review


The New York Times

Rachel Donadio

What sets “Hurry Down Sunshine” apart from the great horde of mediocre memoirs, with their sitcom emotions and too neatly resolved fights and reconciliations, is Greenberg’s frank pessimism, dark humor and fundamental incapacity to make sense of his daughter’s ordeal, let alone to derive an uplifting moral from it... But beyond family drama, “Hurry Down Sunshine” is a very New York book, filled with the kind of characters increasingly rare in a city where real kooks can no longer afford to live.

26/09/2008

Read Full Review


The Observer

Kate Kellaway

...the positive side effect of being exiled from real conversation with his daughter is to make Greenberg gratefully and minutely observant of everyone else in his story... the character who makes the memoir is Pat. It is a wonderful portrait of a stepmother. We gather that even Pat's walk is complicated: "self-regarding yet with an opposing wish to go unnoticed". She is ascetic yet cautiously luxurious; no other character competes.

08/03/2009

Read Full Review


The Daily Telegraph

Alison Flood

Her descent into psychosis is torrential, frightening, and scrupulously charted by Greenberg, who is desperate to locate his daughter inside this “psychotic self” that makes his “stomach quail”... Written with Sally’s consent, Hurry Down Sunshine is a compelling, harrowing, lyrical memoir offering a clear-sighted view of the reality of mental illness.

13/03/2009

Read Full Review


The Guardian

Blake Morrison

"Madness is terrific I can assure you," [Virginia Woolf] once wrote. "The six months that I lay in bed taught me a good deal about what is called oneself." Sally feels the same about the truth she saw in her vision and fights to keep the intensity of it alive. "The evil seduction," Sally's psychiatrist calls this: the mind falling in love with its delusions. But Greenberg can understand the impulse, and it's this that gives Hurry Down Sunshine such power. Restrained yet candid, it's a beautifully written book...

07/02/2009

Read Full Review


The New Yorker

Books Briefly Noted

[A] remarkable memoir... As Greenberg watches [Sally's] progress under psychiatric care, he is plagued by multifaceted guilt. He has a mentally ill brother and wonders if his genes are to blame... He mulls, by way of Schumann, Lowell, and Lucia Joyce, the long association of art and derangement and imagines that his literary preoccupations have influenced his daughter’s.

29/09/2008

Read Full Review


Times Literary Supplement

Joyce Carol Oates

[A] touching, warmly intimate and unsparing [book]... One comes away from Hurry Down Sunshine with the conviction that, like the best fiction, this memoir has transcended the merely particular and eccentric to constitute a kind of hard-won art.

23/12/2008

Read Full Review


The Washington Post

Nell Casey

Greenberg renders the details of his daughter's breakdown with lyrical precision. He ably describes the heightened sense of being that is often a component of madness -- and the way it beckons to outsiders. "Sally's need to feel understood is like one's need for air," he confides and then adds: "Isn't this everyone's struggle? To recruit others to our version of reality? To persuade? To be seen for what we think we are?"

14/10/2008

Read Full Review


The Times

Bel Mooney

...a compelling narrative about how one (admittedly atypical) family coped with madness... Books such as this have to transcend what is particular, or else they cannot escape the narrow box marked personal and eccentric. Greenberg succeeds. His story is tough and lyrical, even if we are left wanting to know much more about what led up to and what followed this young girl's period of insanity

27/02/2009

Read Full Review


The Sunday Times

Ian Critchley

[A] poignant memoir... His book is not only a moving account of familial love and acceptance, but also a powerful autobiography, charting the gradual overcoming of Greenberg's own demons.

22/02/2009

Read Full Review


©2013 The Omnivore