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Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness

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Inferno is the riveting memoir of a young mother who is separated from her newborn son and husband when she's involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward in New Jersey after a harrowing bout of postpartum psychosis. When Catherine Cho and her husband set off from London to introduce their newborn son to family scattered across the United States, she could not have imagine Inferno is the riveting memoir of a young mother who is separated from her newborn son and husband when she's involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward in New Jersey after a harrowing bout of postpartum psychosis. When Catherine Cho and her husband set off from London to introduce their newborn son to family scattered across the United States, she could not have imagined what lay in store. Before the trip’s end, she develops psychosis. In desperation, her husband admits her to a nearby psychiatric hospital, where she begins the hard work of rebuilding her identity. In this memoir Catherine reconstructs her sense of self, starting with her childhood as the daughter of Korean immigrants, moving through a traumatic past relationship, and on to the early years of her courtship with and marriage to her husband, James. She interweaves these parts of her past with an immediate recounting of the days she spent in the ward.


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Inferno is the riveting memoir of a young mother who is separated from her newborn son and husband when she's involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward in New Jersey after a harrowing bout of postpartum psychosis. When Catherine Cho and her husband set off from London to introduce their newborn son to family scattered across the United States, she could not have imagine Inferno is the riveting memoir of a young mother who is separated from her newborn son and husband when she's involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward in New Jersey after a harrowing bout of postpartum psychosis. When Catherine Cho and her husband set off from London to introduce their newborn son to family scattered across the United States, she could not have imagined what lay in store. Before the trip’s end, she develops psychosis. In desperation, her husband admits her to a nearby psychiatric hospital, where she begins the hard work of rebuilding her identity. In this memoir Catherine reconstructs her sense of self, starting with her childhood as the daughter of Korean immigrants, moving through a traumatic past relationship, and on to the early years of her courtship with and marriage to her husband, James. She interweaves these parts of her past with an immediate recounting of the days she spent in the ward.

30 review for Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness

  1. 5 out of 5

    Swaroop

    "Who would you trust to pack your parachute?" "I just need to make it to morning, I thought. Morning will be a new day. The old world just needs to be destroyed to make a new one." Inferno by Catherine Cho. This book is very well written. A memoir about Cho`s experience with postpartum psychosis​. I would say it is incredibly brave and very kind of Cho, to write this honest memoir and share those hurtful memories. This memoir gives us an inside-the-mind peek and better understanding of a person`s "Who would you trust to pack your parachute?" "I just need to make it to morning, I thought. Morning will be a new day. The old world just needs to be destroyed to make a new one." Inferno by Catherine Cho. This book is very well written. A memoir about Cho`s experience with postpartum psychosis​. I would say it is incredibly brave and very kind of Cho, to write this honest memoir and share those hurtful memories. This memoir gives us an inside-the-mind peek and better understanding of a person`s experience with psychosis.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    Catherine Cho’s son was not even three months old when she experienced a psychotic break; when her son’s eyes transformed into devil’s eyes and she had trouble distinguishing between her own life and parallel realities, she was experiencing a rare but serious ailment known as postpartum psychosis. Though the onset typically happens closer to giving birth, the result is just as severe: hallucinations, paranoia, inability to sleep - the list goes on. Basically overnight, a new mother can go from b Catherine Cho’s son was not even three months old when she experienced a psychotic break; when her son’s eyes transformed into devil’s eyes and she had trouble distinguishing between her own life and parallel realities, she was experiencing a rare but serious ailment known as postpartum psychosis. Though the onset typically happens closer to giving birth, the result is just as severe: hallucinations, paranoia, inability to sleep - the list goes on. Basically overnight, a new mother can go from being sleep-deprived, but stable, to being inside the jaws of mental illness. Cho opens her memoir with her inside a mental hospital, trying to strengthen her grasp on reality while trying to navigate the “office politics” inside the ward. “The fastest way out of here,” a fellow patient tells her, “is to act like you don’t want to leave.” With no sense of how long she’s been inside (days? weeks? months?), she tries to remember who she is and how she came to be there. She uses a journal to record things she’s certain are real. And so we go on a walk with Cho as she rewinds her timeline, first bringing us back to her childhood in a Korean-American family. We see that she’s had complicated relationships with men in the past beginning with her father and ending with an abusive relationship that she fled. We see her meet the man who would become her husband and the happy details surrounding her pregnancy - information that proves foreboding for the reader who knows, eventually, what is coming. What may not be expected from this book is that it is predominantly this author’s life story leading up to her psychosis. All of the backstory may seem like a distraction from the point if the title and synopsis are to be believed, but I would argue that the extensive backstory is not only great reading, but gives the reader a sense of the person, the mind, to which Cho is attempting to return. When her husband tells her during a visit he pays to the mental hospital that no, she isn’t ready to come home because she’s not “herself” yet, it’s critically important that we know who that self is. Not only does Cho achieve this, but as we’ve come to know her as a person by the time, toward the end of the book, that she takes us through her stress-induced psychotic break, we can see and fully know how out-of-character this was for her. The way she describes what she was seeing, thinking, and feeling as she began to melt down is all-consuming and terrifying. One minute she’s merely a stressed new mom feeling the weight of her in-laws expectations, the next, she’s seeing things that aren’t real. The reader is along for the ride, seat belts required. This is a short, but spectacularly done memoir.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vonda

    An honest and unflinching look at postpartum psychosis, mental hospitalization and the Korean culture. A brutally honest look at Catherine Cho's life. It's amazing how she opened herself up like this and shared so much! She tells how traveling around stressed her out and then she had a baby leading to postpartum psychosis. The Korean culture was very unforgiving of her problems, so she was institutionalized in the mental hospital missing her child's 100 day celebration. I know it wasn't easy to An honest and unflinching look at postpartum psychosis, mental hospitalization and the Korean culture. A brutally honest look at Catherine Cho's life. It's amazing how she opened herself up like this and shared so much! She tells how traveling around stressed her out and then she had a baby leading to postpartum psychosis. The Korean culture was very unforgiving of her problems, so she was institutionalized in the mental hospital missing her child's 100 day celebration. I know it wasn't easy to have written a book like this, thank you for sharing your life experience Catherine Cho.

  4. 5 out of 5

    fatma

    4-4.5 stars an absolutely stunning memoir in every sense of the word. catherine cho's writing has a way of burrowing under your skin. rtc 4-4.5 stars an absolutely stunning memoir in every sense of the word. catherine cho's writing has a way of burrowing under your skin. rtc

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emily M

    3.5 As an experience worth basing a memoir around, Cho’s sudden, violent descent into postpartum psychosis a few months after the birth of her son is unparalleled. We meet Cho on a general psych ward in America. She’s supposed to be on holiday, travelling around the US with her husband and three month old to introduce him to family. But family pressure, sleep deprivation or plain old hormones rush in, and she starts hallucinating that the baby is the devil, the hospital is Hell, and she is a kind 3.5 As an experience worth basing a memoir around, Cho’s sudden, violent descent into postpartum psychosis a few months after the birth of her son is unparalleled. We meet Cho on a general psych ward in America. She’s supposed to be on holiday, travelling around the US with her husband and three month old to introduce him to family. But family pressure, sleep deprivation or plain old hormones rush in, and she starts hallucinating that the baby is the devil, the hospital is Hell, and she is a kind of latter-day Beatrice, charged with leading her husband safely out. This is the story of her journey back from the brink and of her restlessness to know what has caused the psychosis: was it genetics? Circumstance? Was it because she ignored the Korean traditions her parents and in-laws insist upon, and did not eat her seaweed soup, and left the house too soon after birth? Cho makes a good narrator for such a story, her very mildness and normalcy underlining the shocking violence of her experience. She is not at all the kind of person you would expect to find restrained on a gurney. And she weaves a number of interesting strands into her story, from Korean and Western mythology, to Dante, to musings into how family predisposes you for life, how Koreans feel the wounds of the North-South separation down the generations, how abusive relationships can shape a psyche. Structurally, I felt there were some problems. The most interesting aspect of the book is the psychotic breakdown itself, which is mostly told late in the story. The least interesting parts, surprisingly, are in the psych ward, where largely irrelevant characters bog down the story and where nothing much happens or develops. As with many memoirs, I suspected a long essay could have covered much of the same ground. Still, Cho writes well. Her prose is not “luminous and spiralling” as a nonsensical cover blurb suggests, but it is pleasingly straightforward and not too prone to poetic mumbo-jumbo. And it’s a fascinating story.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    This book broke me a little. Well a lot. Holy cow.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Madeline O'Rourke

    Inferno is a fantastic memoir. Postpartum psychosis is something that I had zero knowledge about when I began reading this book. Cho deftly writes about her experience, informing the reader about postpartum psychosis in a super engaging and well-written way. I'm not sure if Cho will write anything else—fiction or non-fiction—but I'd absolutely be eager to pick up anything she does write. She is talented, able to take an interesting story and make it engaging to read. Inferno is a fantastic memoir. Postpartum psychosis is something that I had zero knowledge about when I began reading this book. Cho deftly writes about her experience, informing the reader about postpartum psychosis in a super engaging and well-written way. I'm not sure if Cho will write anything else—fiction or non-fiction—but I'd absolutely be eager to pick up anything she does write. She is talented, able to take an interesting story and make it engaging to read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Fraser Simons

    This is absolutely a book worth reading, even if structurally and stylistically it didn’t always gel with me. I can see why it’s arranged as it is, but it also made it feel very detached and artificial, maybe because of the audio narration too, which always tends to feel slightly removed; I’m not sure. Her accounting of her early life feels very relevant as to contributing to her psychosis. I thought that was great. But the start sets up that she’s in the ward at the moment, writing this, ostens This is absolutely a book worth reading, even if structurally and stylistically it didn’t always gel with me. I can see why it’s arranged as it is, but it also made it feel very detached and artificial, maybe because of the audio narration too, which always tends to feel slightly removed; I’m not sure. Her accounting of her early life feels very relevant as to contributing to her psychosis. I thought that was great. But the start sets up that she’s in the ward at the moment, writing this, ostensibly, and of course that isn’t the case at all. So I felt like there was some weird attempt at setting up circumstances that weren’t true, for no real reason whatsoever. She did not write pretty much at all while under care, she recounts from people in her life that visited her. So I don’t understand why the structure and conceit is even set up the way it is. But I also feel like it’s a book that would make a lot of people feel seen. Even if the ending feels quite rushed and the arc feels incomplete because of the more granular aspects being spent on her past. There’s not much context for after it, which I think would have contributed to the larger conversation. So, overall, mixed. But worth reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Enrico

    I was initially expecting a book about psychosis, but Inferno by Catherine Cho revealed to be so much more. This is a story about love, motherhood and life: after just a few pages I wanted to learn more about Catherine's experience, so much so that I struggled to put this book down. With Inferno, the author bravely guides us through her emotional journey, which starts with her lost in a psych ward, but page after page she untangles the knots and resurfaces with new hope. She is able to vividly de I was initially expecting a book about psychosis, but Inferno by Catherine Cho revealed to be so much more. This is a story about love, motherhood and life: after just a few pages I wanted to learn more about Catherine's experience, so much so that I struggled to put this book down. With Inferno, the author bravely guides us through her emotional journey, which starts with her lost in a psych ward, but page after page she untangles the knots and resurfaces with new hope. She is able to vividly describe her psychosis and to make us understand that this could happen to anybody among us. During this process she shares very intimate parts of her life, family and love, where her husband James and her son Cato patiently wait for her at the end of the tunnel. I really appreciate and praise Catherine for her willingness to share her experience with the world. This book should be in everyone’s wish list!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Haider

    Inferno is a powerful, raw memoir about a women's experience with postpartum psychosis. Catherine Cho was raised in a Korean American household. She married and had her first child. She and her husband decided to use part of their family leave to travel the US to visit relatives with their new baby. During this trip, Cho's mental state spiraled downward into a state of postpartum psychosis. She is checked into an institution. Cho is very open about her state of mind throughout her journey and it Inferno is a powerful, raw memoir about a women's experience with postpartum psychosis. Catherine Cho was raised in a Korean American household. She married and had her first child. She and her husband decided to use part of their family leave to travel the US to visit relatives with their new baby. During this trip, Cho's mental state spiraled downward into a state of postpartum psychosis. She is checked into an institution. Cho is very open about her state of mind throughout her journey and it is quite scary at times. There are moments that she forgets who her husband is and that she even has a child. In my opinion, this is an important read to shine a light on the mental health issues that women can face after giving birth to a child. Cho's writing took me right into her mind and I deeply felt her sadness that by the time she got out of the hospital her baby son wouldn't remember her. There were a lot of emotions. This would be a great addition to any women's studies or feminist bookshelf. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jyotsna

    Actual Rating: 4.8 stars “Through my dread and my fear, I saw the beauty in them, the patterns in the universe. I could tell it was dangerous, this raw energy, this coursing feeling, and for a moment, I wished I could tumble in, tumble into the madness.” What a brilliant and a heartbreaking memoir about facing mental health issues post giving birth. The book comes with trigger warnings for sure and highly recommend that you do not read this if you are an expecting mother. I felt so bad for the a Actual Rating: 4.8 stars “Through my dread and my fear, I saw the beauty in them, the patterns in the universe. I could tell it was dangerous, this raw energy, this coursing feeling, and for a moment, I wished I could tumble in, tumble into the madness.” What a brilliant and a heartbreaking memoir about facing mental health issues post giving birth. The book comes with trigger warnings for sure and highly recommend that you do not read this if you are an expecting mother. I felt so bad for the author and her family who had to go through all of this. But glad that they are at a much better place now! Heartbreaking and recommended! Read for the Quarterfinals of the Booktube Prize 2021, this one made it to the Semifinals. Ranking - 3rd (out of 6 books) (For more insight, please watch the video on my YT channel)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Long

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a tough book to read because of the host and raw emotion that it gives the reader. I can't even begin to imagine how frightening it would be to "lose" one's mind in psychosis. This book is written with such honesty. I like how she incorporates the past in with her experience of being in the mental hospital. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a tough book to read because of the host and raw emotion that it gives the reader. I can't even begin to imagine how frightening it would be to "lose" one's mind in psychosis. This book is written with such honesty. I like how she incorporates the past in with her experience of being in the mental hospital.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Cho, a Korean American literary agent based in London, experienced stress-induced postpartum psychosis after the birth of her son, Cato. She and her husband James had gone back to the USA when Cato was two months old to introduce him to friends and family, ending with a big Korean 100-day celebration for him at her in-laws’ home in New Jersey. Almost as soon as they got to her in-laws’, though, she started acting strangely: she was convinced there were cameras watching their every move, and Cato Cho, a Korean American literary agent based in London, experienced stress-induced postpartum psychosis after the birth of her son, Cato. She and her husband James had gone back to the USA when Cato was two months old to introduce him to friends and family, ending with a big Korean 100-day celebration for him at her in-laws’ home in New Jersey. Almost as soon as they got to her in-laws’, though, she started acting strangely: she was convinced there were cameras watching their every move, and Cato’s eyes were replaced with “devil’s eyes.” She insisted they leave for a hotel, but soon she would be in an emergency room, followed by a mental health ward. Cho alternates between her time on the New Bridge ward – writing in a notebook, trying to act normal whenever James visited, expressing milk from painfully swollen breasts, and interacting with her fellow patients with all their quirks – and a rundown of the rest of her life before the breakdown. Her Kentucky childhood was marked by her mathematician father’s detachment and the sense that she and her brother were together “in the trenches,” pitted against the world. In her twenties she worked in a New York City corporate law firm and got caught up in an abusive relationship with a man she moved to Hong Kong to be with. All along she weaves in her family’s history and Korean sayings and legends that explain their values. Twelve days. That was the length of her hospitalization in early 2018, but Cho so painstakingly depicts her mindset that readers are fully immersed in an open-ended purgatory – a terrifying time when she questioned her sanity and whether she was cut out for motherhood. “Koreans believe that happiness can only tempt the fates and that any happiness must be bought with sorrow,” she writes. She captures both extremes, of suffering and joy, in this vivid account. Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kait Vanderlaan

    Inferno is a memoir about experiencing post-partum psychosis in the Korean culture. I appreciate the vulnerability of the author in sharing about her illness and the things that lead to it: previous trauma, excessive traveling, and feeling unprepared for motherhood. Each brief chapter alternates between her time in a psychiatric hospital, experiences leading up to her illness, and memories from the past. I enjoyed the format and the way things pieced together in an attempt to offer an explanatio Inferno is a memoir about experiencing post-partum psychosis in the Korean culture. I appreciate the vulnerability of the author in sharing about her illness and the things that lead to it: previous trauma, excessive traveling, and feeling unprepared for motherhood. Each brief chapter alternates between her time in a psychiatric hospital, experiences leading up to her illness, and memories from the past. I enjoyed the format and the way things pieced together in an attempt to offer an explanation of how something like this can happen. Unfortunately, I felt that much of the book came across as flat. So much of this story is focused on the hospitalization: what she ate, descriptions of other patients, observations on the unit etc which I found quite boring. While this may very well be all she remembers of the experience, I couldn’t help but feeling like something was missing and wanting more. I wish there were more descriptions of her emotional experience and thought process leading up to her psychosis and during her healing. There are bits and pieces of her emotions and thoughts throughout the memoir - which I found fascinating; however, much of it felt very surface level and I did not feel I adequately understood the author’s experience. This was an interesting read on a very stigmatized topic - I’m glad the author chose to share her story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kazen

    More than mental illness, this book is about the experience of having a mental illness. Cho vividly describes what it's like to experience a psychotic break, to see the devil's eyes in her son's face, and the uncertainty of treatment in on a US psychiatric ward. It's immersive, gripping, and ended up being a one day read for me. If you'd like to hear more thoughts check out the Booktube Prize vlog where I talk about it in detail. More than mental illness, this book is about the experience of having a mental illness. Cho vividly describes what it's like to experience a psychotic break, to see the devil's eyes in her son's face, and the uncertainty of treatment in on a US psychiatric ward. It's immersive, gripping, and ended up being a one day read for me. If you'd like to hear more thoughts check out the Booktube Prize vlog where I talk about it in detail.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    I've always been fascinated by the topic of postpartum psychosis. I have four children and have suffered postpartum depression and anxiety, so it's a topic close to my heart. I've never seen a memoir or even a book written about it, so I was so excited to read Catherine Cho's memoir. I read it practically in one sitting. It was so moving and fascinating that I couldn't put it down. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer and had more detail! Postpartum psychosis is something that needs so I've always been fascinated by the topic of postpartum psychosis. I have four children and have suffered postpartum depression and anxiety, so it's a topic close to my heart. I've never seen a memoir or even a book written about it, so I was so excited to read Catherine Cho's memoir. I read it practically in one sitting. It was so moving and fascinating that I couldn't put it down. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer and had more detail! Postpartum psychosis is something that needs so much more research and discussion, and I hope this book brings that to light.

  17. 5 out of 5

    A'

    Disappointed. I am very into books of the mental health nature and keen on reading more and more on motherhood as of lately. But I felt like this book was being told to me through a distance stance. It didn't feel like the author was telling me her story, but a story of someone else's life. I stuck with it and held hope that she would open up and dive deeper into her experiences and her feelings, but no. Story is still beautiful, about the importance of family and having a support system but I ex Disappointed. I am very into books of the mental health nature and keen on reading more and more on motherhood as of lately. But I felt like this book was being told to me through a distance stance. It didn't feel like the author was telling me her story, but a story of someone else's life. I stuck with it and held hope that she would open up and dive deeper into her experiences and her feelings, but no. Story is still beautiful, about the importance of family and having a support system but I expected better [and maybe that is my own fault].

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lucia Walker

    Astonishing, terrifying and utterly heartbreaking, this memoir gives a remarkable insight into the vortex of postpartum psychosis. It is also a hymn to the aching tenderness, love, guilt and regret bound up in both childhood and motherhood. Written in masterful, limpid prose, it grips from the first page: I could not put it down.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Signe

    Cho writes well about her split from reality, and a tiny bit about coming back to it. What the story highlights for me is that if her experience was this horrible spending 4 days in emergency and about a week in a psych ward, with parents and her husband by her side, how horrible it must be for people whose psychosis doesn’t end, and for those who have no supports whatsoever that get stuck in the system alone with no hopes of release or improvement in their condition, largely because of the outd Cho writes well about her split from reality, and a tiny bit about coming back to it. What the story highlights for me is that if her experience was this horrible spending 4 days in emergency and about a week in a psych ward, with parents and her husband by her side, how horrible it must be for people whose psychosis doesn’t end, and for those who have no supports whatsoever that get stuck in the system alone with no hopes of release or improvement in their condition, largely because of the outdated ways we treat psych patients. This needs to change.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    3.5 rounded up Inferno tells Cho's story of her postpartum psychosis which came on three months after the birth of her son during a trip back home to the U.S.. Her memories from her time in hospital are interspersed with her life up until the birth of her child, and they make for a riveting and moving read. Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review. 3.5 rounded up Inferno tells Cho's story of her postpartum psychosis which came on three months after the birth of her son during a trip back home to the U.S.. Her memories from her time in hospital are interspersed with her life up until the birth of her child, and they make for a riveting and moving read. Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    L.M. Boyd

    Full review to come. This one was quite good, especially because I was reading Dante's Inferno alongside it. Full review to come. This one was quite good, especially because I was reading Dante's Inferno alongside it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Holy shit.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    Cho’s experience of post-partum psychosis is brutal. When she sees the devil in her three-month old baby’s eyes you know how dark this will get. I’ve read so many Girl, Interrupted style memoirs and novels now and seem to have an insatiable appetite. The difference here is Cho’s insights into Korean culture, especially when it comes to birth and babies. I had never heard of post-partum psychosis and learnt so much.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Basic B's Guide

    Inferno is an intimate and deeply affecting account of postpartum psychosis. As a mother I could relate to the panic and stress of being responsible for a human life. I remember my first day on my own with the boys, panic set in and I wondered how in the heck I was going to take care of these babies and not screw it up. Also the guilt we carry as mothers throughout it all. Cho carried these feelings of guilt even when she was in the psychiatric ward.⁣ ⁣ Not only was the story relatable as a mother Inferno is an intimate and deeply affecting account of postpartum psychosis. As a mother I could relate to the panic and stress of being responsible for a human life. I remember my first day on my own with the boys, panic set in and I wondered how in the heck I was going to take care of these babies and not screw it up. Also the guilt we carry as mothers throughout it all. Cho carried these feelings of guilt even when she was in the psychiatric ward.⁣ ⁣ Not only was the story relatable as a mother but I learned so much about Korean culture and traditions in regards to motherhood. “According to Korean tradition, after a baby is born, mother and baby do not leave the house for the first 21 days. There are long cords of peppers and charcoal hung in the doorway to ward away guests and evil spirits. At the end of the 21 day’s, there is a large celebration, a celebration of survival, with pyramids of fruit and lengths of thread for long life.”⁣ ⁣ I recommend memoir readers add this to their tbr. Thank you to the publisher for a free copy.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Congleton

    Wow. Just...wow. Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. Cho is a masterful storyteller, bringing the reader along for the wild ride that is postpartum psychosis. I found myself having to pause to catch my breath as Cho brought me through the depths of her psychosis—the paranoia, the loss of time and space, the confusion—and suddenly returned to moments of lucidity, then back again into chaos once more. I’d recommend reading this with a cup of stress relief tea on hand.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Realistic and haunting in its perceptions experienced. But extremely repetitive and characteristic for all the voids in its very form. I was virtually numbed by the half way point. As if it itself, very words of this book, were RX anti-psychotic medications. Thus she did express herself overall in a 4 stars equivalent to what she had experienced.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I wouldn’t know where to begin. This is an amazing book. I wish it had been available to me many years ago. The author is incredibly honest, and reassuring to every new mother who might be experiencing unexpected problems.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ania

    upon reflection: 3,5 stars, rounded up

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dani

    Wow. Insane storytelling for a ~200 page memoir. Cho's writing will make you want to savour each word and highlight every paragraph. Her story is brave, frightening but most of all, honest—about the struggles of finding identity in motherhood, and the madness (yet also salvation) that may come from surrendering to love. definitely a fave!!!! Wow. Insane storytelling for a ~200 page memoir. Cho's writing will make you want to savour each word and highlight every paragraph. Her story is brave, frightening but most of all, honest—about the struggles of finding identity in motherhood, and the madness (yet also salvation) that may come from surrendering to love. definitely a fave!!!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elena L.

    [3,5/5 stars] INFERNO is an honest and vastly vulnerable memoir of Catherine Cho focused on her postpartum experience. When Cho and her family decide to go on a round trip in United States to introduce her son to the family, she develops postpartum psychosis. As a mother myself, this memoir is relatable in many ways - the stress and anxiety to raise a child and the feelings of guilt when things go out of our plans. Despite some reckless attitudes, I could empathize with Cho's desire to reconstruct [3,5/5 stars] INFERNO is an honest and vastly vulnerable memoir of Catherine Cho focused on her postpartum experience. When Cho and her family decide to go on a round trip in United States to introduce her son to the family, she develops postpartum psychosis. As a mother myself, this memoir is relatable in many ways - the stress and anxiety to raise a child and the feelings of guilt when things go out of our plans. Despite some reckless attitudes, I could empathize with Cho's desire to reconstruct her sense of identity. It is hard to find a balance between being a mother and centering on our own happiness. I also found the Korean traditions regarding motherhood very similar to Chinese customs and I kept nodding while I was reading- the Korean tradition of staying 21 days at home after childbirth (it's called "quarantine" in China, meaning 40 days); to always keep both mother and child warm; to not shower for a week-long; to drink nutritious soup (seaweed soup in Korean tradition; fish/herbal soup in Chinese tradition) for the purpose of recovering mother's physical health. As we read Cho's experience, these superstitions/folktales often become a burden and we are constantly trying to understand the meaning of following the tradition. The process of giving birth was raw and a few memories from my personal experience arose in my mind. Surprisingly, the parts of Cho in a psychiatric ward were the least interesting to me and I was more invested in her backstory. Through beautiful writing, INFERNO is an intense exploration of motherhood, postpartum psychosis and identity. I do recommend this memoir for readers seeking to read about these themes. [ I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review ]

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