Monday, August 6, 2012
ARC Review: January First
Author: Michael Schofield
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Memoir, Adult
Publication: 8/7/12, Crown Publishing
# of Pages: 288 (Hardcover)
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis from Goodreads: A brilliant and harrowingly honest memoir, January First is the extraordinary story of a father's fight to save his child from an extremely severe case of mental illness in the face of overwhelming adversity.
At six years old, Michael Schofield's daughter, January, was diagnosed with one of the most severe cases of child-onset schizophrenia that doctors had ever seen. In January's case, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her. January, "Jani" to her family, has literally hundreds of imaginary friends. They go by names like 400-the-Cat, 100 Degrees, and 24 Hours and live on an island called "Calalini," which she describes as existing "on the border of my world and your world." Some of these friends are good, and some of them, such as 400, are very bad. They tell her to jump off buildings, attack her brother, and scream at strangers.
In the middle of these never-ending delusions, hallucinations, and paroxysms of rage are Jani's parents, who have gone to the ends of the earth to keep both of their children alive and unharmed. They live in separate one-bedroom apartments in order to keep her little brother, Bohdi, safe from his big sister--and wage a daily war against a social system that has all but completely failed them. January First is the story of the daily struggles and challenges they face as they do everything they can to help their daughter while trying to keep their family together. It is the inspiring tale of their resolute determination and faith.
My Review: At first, a lot of what I was reading made me angry. I held an opinion, much like some of the doctors in this book, that this was just a case of bad parenting. I was actually shouting at my book at 2am. Shouting. I kept screaming that they weren't doing it right. That a child needs discipline. That parents needed to have a united front. But then I kept reading, stopped judging a situation I know absolutely nothing about, and I found that I was wrong.
I could totally relate to Michael's struggle to avoid stifling his daughter while trying to maintain her sanity. Here's the thing, when a child is unique, you often worry that if you try to force them to conform to societal norms you will kill their genius. That you will turn them into someone ordinary. And really, does the world need more ordinary?
In the end, I liked this one but I didn't love it mostly because the writing left a little something to be desired. I wanted more raw emotion and what I got was an almost dry recounting of the events. And some of the narrator's behavior I found unsettling. Still, the story was compelling enough to keep me up well into the night on the first day I received my ARC so that I could finish January's story.