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Posts Tagged ‘Hurry Down Sunshine’

  • Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg
  • Publisher: Other Press (September 9, 2008 )
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590511916
  • Hurry Down Sunshine is Michael Greenberg’s candid memoir of the summer of 1996, the summer his 15-year-old daughter, Sally, suffered a manic breakdown that left her hospitalized for several weeks, and medicated for years.  It is a vivid portrayal of a father watching his child struggle against the inner turmoil that has a hold on her.  As a parent, I found it difficult to read – we all want to protect our children from any kind of “monster”;  yet it was also compelling –  I felt Greenberg’s compassion for Sally, and pieces of her brilliance shone through. 

    As Greenberg describes it, Sally is his bright beautiful daughter one day, and a complete stranger the next.  Convinced that she has uncharacteristically experimented with drugs, he tries to wait out the madness; soon, with the encouragement of his wife, Pat, Greenberg accepts that they need professional help to deal with Sally’s crisis.  The reader follows their heart-wrenching journey through the next few months, guided by the author’s honest and descriptive prose.

    Throughout most of the book, Greenberg uses long narrative passages which flow smoothly in the present tense, as the hot sticky Manhattan summer trudges along outside the doors of the psychiatric hospital.  His experience as a freelance writer and widely-published essayist are reflected in this polished style.  A few passages reflect a more urgent telling – at one point the family becomes “initiates to [the psych ward’s] tacit code of behavior and arcane ways”; Greenberg lists them in a quick staccato burst:

    Keep your empathies to yourself.  Avoid eye contact with patients.  Never argue.  Resist overidentifying with others, and maintain the illusion of privacy with fellow visitors as you would with picnickers on separate blankets in a crowded park.  Make friends with members of the staff, if possible, and expect nothing in the way of reassurance from them in return.

    The author writes of his marriage to Sally’s step-mother, “we have been married for two years and our life together is still emerging from under the weight of the separate worlds each of us brought along.”  That weight, in his case, includes not only Sally and her illness, but also Greenberg’s older brother for whom he acts as guardian and caretaker, awkward interactions between Pat and Robin (Greenberg’s former wife), financial strain, and an uncertain living arrangement.

    Greenberg is distressed, yet as supportive as he knows how to be, and surprisingly doesn’t show anger.  He remembers to bring special treats to Sally, artichokes and chocolates, although he is almost paralyzed at the newsstand, overwhelmed by the magazine choices and wondering if any of the cover articles would spark a reaction from her.  Greenberg keeps up a steady stream of positive hope, despite the weight of the situation; day after day he waits with family in the visitors’ lounge, hoping that Sally will emerge from the ward and sit with them, “when I question why we’re sitting here without her, I tell myself: If we weren’t waiting for her to come back to us, she would lose the sense that there was a point of return.”

    The memoir is divided into three parts, breaking at each major turning point over the summer.  The tone stays the same throughout – bewildered and cautiously optimistic.  The author does an excellent job telling his experience; he makes no attempt to get inside Sally’s head and make her story his own.  It is a tale that leaves you rooting for the best for each member of the family, yet knowing that there are rarely fairy-tale endings in real life.

    Click here to read the first ten pages of Hurry Down Sunshine.  This linkwill take you to a short and haunting video presentation in which Greenberg describes the genesis of Sally’s breakdown and his compulsion to write about it (scroll down, the video box is on the left, just under the product listing).  Click here to order the book from amazon.com, or click here to order from your local IndieBound independent bookseller.

    I received my review copy of Hurry Down Sunshine courtesy of Other Press LLC and LibraryThing.

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    Monday 9/1 – September 1st!  Happy Labor Day!  Today I begin the LT Author Challenge, inspired by the Boston Bibliophile’s question last week, “who are your LibraryThing authors?”  A full explanation of the challenge is here; I’m still working on my list of books for the challenge, and will post it within the next few days.  What’s on your list?

    Tuesday 9/2 – I learn more about LibraryThing in answering Marie’s weekly questions; what will it be today?

    During the week I plan to post reviews for Debra Dean’s The Madonnas of Leningrad and Michael Greenberg’s Hurry Down Sunshine; perhaps a children’s book or two, as well.

    Wednesday 9/3 – This week’s guest post for the Spotlight on Bookstores series is written by Lisa Roe, online book publicist.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is priceless; you’ve got to see the video clip that goes along with this post!

    Thursday 9/4 – I’m the “baby” in the family, and still carry the weight of that nickname today.  The three sisters in Ellen Meister’s The Smart One were also given labels that they carried into adulthood.  Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for a gift package appealing to the pretty one, the smart one and the wild one in all of us!

    Friday 9/5 – Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for two copies of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler; the winners will recieve the book personally inscribed by the author!

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    MizB over at Should Be Reading asks what books have come into our lives this week, here’s my list:

    The LibraryThing Early Reviewers’ mighty algorithm matched me with Hurry Down Sunshineby Michael Greenberg.  The book will be published in September, so look for my review at the end of this month.  Here’s a product description:  Hurry Down Sunshine tells the story of the extraordinary summer when, at the age of fifteen, Michael Greenberg’s daughter was struck mad. It begins with Sally’s visionary crack-up on the streets of Greenwich Village, and continues, among other places, in the out-of-time world of a Manhattan psychiatric ward during the city’s most sweltering months. “I feel like I’m traveling and traveling with nowhere to go back to,” Sally says in a burst of lucidity while hurtling away toward some place her father could not dream of or imagine. Hurry Down Sunshine is the chronicle of that journey, and its effect on Sally and those closest to her–her brother and grandmother, her mother and stepmother, and, not least of all, the author himself. Among Greenberg’s unforgettable gallery of characters are an unconventional psychiatrist, an Orthodox Jewish patient, a manic Classics professor, a movie producer, and a landlord with literary dreams. Unsentimental, nuanced, and deeply humane, Hurry Down Sunshine holds the reader in a mesmerizing state of suspension between the mundane and the transcendent.

    I was asked to review The Smart One by Ellen Meister for an author tour with Blog Stop Tours.  This will be available for sale the middle of next week, on August 5, so some of you may be enjoying the book at the same as I.  Ms. Meister’s stop at She Is Too Fond of Books will be August 29.  A synopsis of The Smart One: Bev is the Smart One, who finally leaves her artistic ambitions in chalk dust (and her humor-impaired husband in the arms—and legs—of his nubile protégée) to become a schoolteacher. Clare is the Pretty One, who married well and seems to be living a designer version of the suburban dream. Joey is the Wild One, struggling to stay clean and sober now that she’s used up her fifteen minutes of fame as a one-hit-wonder rock star. They love each other but mix like oil, water, and hundred-proof gin . . . a combination that threatens to combust over family tensions, suspected infidelities, a devastating accident, a stunning confession, and the sudden reappearance of their handsome, now all-grown-up former neighbor, Kenny Waxman, who’s back in town making his mark as a TV comedy writer.  It seems they’ll never understand where their differences begin and their own destructive tendencies end. Then it happens: the sisters discover a decades-old body stuffed inside an industrial drum and begin a bold, heartbreaking, and sometimes hilarious journey that will either bring them together . . . or tear them apart for good.

    And, I received a book that I won in a trivia contest sponsored by the author and her publisher!  I was excited to find an international mailing envelope from Susan Ronald, with her book, The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire.  This came out in paperback at the end of June.  The product description:  Dubbed the “pirate queen” by the Vatican and Spain’s Philip II, Elizabeth I was feared and admired by her enemies. Extravagant, whimsical, and hot-tempered, Elizabeth was the epitome of power. Her visionary accomplishments were made possible by her daring merchants, gifted rapscallion adventurers, astronomer philosophers, and her stalwart Privy Council, including Sir William Cecil, Sir Francis Walsingham, and Sir Nicholas Bacon. All these men contributed their vast genius, power, greed, and expertise to the advancement of England.  In The Pirate Queen, historian Susan Ronald offers a fresh look at Elizabeth I, focusing on her uncanny instinct for financial survival and the superior intellect that propelled and sustained her rise. The foundation of Elizabeth’s empire was built on a carefully choreographed strategy whereby piracy transformed England from an impoverished state on the fringes of Europe into the first building block of an empire that covered two-fifths of the world.  Based on a wealth of historical sources and thousands of personal letters between Elizabeth and her merchant adventurers, advisers, and royal “cousins,” The Pirate Queen tells the thrilling story of Elizabeth and the swashbuckling mariners who terrorized the seas, planted the seedlings of an empire, and amassed great wealth for themselves and the Crown.

    Have any of you read The Pirate Queen?  Is The Smart One on your list to pick up next week?  How about Hurry Down Sunshine?  I love the variety this week – memoir, fiction, and history!

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