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One Friday in April: A Story of Suicide and Survival

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As the sun lowered in the sky one Friday afternoon in April 2006, acclaimed author Donald Antrim found himself on the roof of his Brooklyn apartment building, afraid for his life. In this moving memoir, Antrim vividly recounts what led him to the roof and what happened after he came back down: two hospitalizations, weeks of fruitless clinical trials, the terror of submitti As the sun lowered in the sky one Friday afternoon in April 2006, acclaimed author Donald Antrim found himself on the roof of his Brooklyn apartment building, afraid for his life. In this moving memoir, Antrim vividly recounts what led him to the roof and what happened after he came back down: two hospitalizations, weeks of fruitless clinical trials, the terror of submitting to ECT—and the saving call from David Foster Wallace that convinced him to try it—as well as years of fitful recovery and setback. One Friday in April reframes suicide—whether in thought or action—as an illness in its own right, a unique consequence of trauma and personal isolation, rather than the choice of a depressed person. A necessary companion to William Styron’s classic Darkness Visible, this profound, insightful work sheds light on the tragedy and mystery of suicide, offering solace that may save lives.


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As the sun lowered in the sky one Friday afternoon in April 2006, acclaimed author Donald Antrim found himself on the roof of his Brooklyn apartment building, afraid for his life. In this moving memoir, Antrim vividly recounts what led him to the roof and what happened after he came back down: two hospitalizations, weeks of fruitless clinical trials, the terror of submitti As the sun lowered in the sky one Friday afternoon in April 2006, acclaimed author Donald Antrim found himself on the roof of his Brooklyn apartment building, afraid for his life. In this moving memoir, Antrim vividly recounts what led him to the roof and what happened after he came back down: two hospitalizations, weeks of fruitless clinical trials, the terror of submitting to ECT—and the saving call from David Foster Wallace that convinced him to try it—as well as years of fitful recovery and setback. One Friday in April reframes suicide—whether in thought or action—as an illness in its own right, a unique consequence of trauma and personal isolation, rather than the choice of a depressed person. A necessary companion to William Styron’s classic Darkness Visible, this profound, insightful work sheds light on the tragedy and mystery of suicide, offering solace that may save lives.

30 review for One Friday in April: A Story of Suicide and Survival

  1. 4 out of 5

    Swaroop

    CW // & TW //: please read the title of the book clearly, and be mindful to take care of yourself. Ask not what disease the person has, but rather, what person the disease has. ~ Sir William Osler. Oh dear, this is such a brilliant description and heartfelt perspective of that 'burning fire' inside ["We may feel as if we are burning, as if our cells have caught fire."]. It is brilliant because the feelings and thoughts are narrated unfiltered and so well, and the reader is provided with such deep CW // & TW //: please read the title of the book clearly, and be mindful to take care of yourself. Ask not what disease the person has, but rather, what person the disease has. ~ Sir William Osler. Oh dear, this is such a brilliant description and heartfelt perspective of that 'burning fire' inside ["We may feel as if we are burning, as if our cells have caught fire."]. It is brilliant because the feelings and thoughts are narrated unfiltered and so well, and the reader is provided with such deep insight into understanding the struggle, the turmoil and the pain a person goes through when they are suicidal. "Grief, sadness, and despair are common enough experiences for most of us; they are universal states of being, painful yet transformative. But suicide, an illness with strong common symptomologies from patient to patient around the world, cannot adequately be explained in terms of grief, sadness, or despair." Suicide must not be imagined as enigmatic; it isn’t poetry or philosophy. One Friday in April is scary, chilling, intimate, raw, thought-provoking and profound. "Soldiers in battle have no safety from war, only weaponry, their training, and their trust in each other". Donald Antrim writes to and for us from his heart. He shares intimate and intricate details of this journey, pours his heart out to provide us a perspective of this disease process and the terrible times and dilemmas a person goes through. "Suicide is a natural history, a disease process, not an act or a choice, a decision or a wish. I see it as a long illness, an illness with origins in trauma and isolation, in deprivation of touch, in violence and neglect, in the loss of home and belonging. It is a disease of the body and the brain, if you make that distinction, but its etiology, its beginning, whether in early or later life, in the family or beyond, is social in nature. I see suicide as a social disease. I will refer to suicide, not depression". "Suicide did not seem like a choice to me, but an eternal state, like the eternity of death." "Ambivalence, our ability to hold many ideas and beliefs at once, is absent in the psychosis." By explaining and recounting about his painful and traumatic past experiences and life events, Donald Antrim 'connects the dots' and helps us get a clear understanding of how the past led to the present - the reasons and the source for the suicidal thoughts. "We don’t understand, as children, that our loneliness and lack of care will become a fate—a loneliness that we will feel all our lives". "Children bullied at school may find asylum at home, but for children abused in the home, there is no asylum." This thought may sound weird, but it clearly feels like we, human beings, need to be trained on parenting skills before we become parents. Parenting and taking care of children is not totally a on-the-job learning. Many parents, mostly unknowingly, mess up a child's life and future. What is suicide? Why do we have it? Why would any person do it? How did we miss the cues? Is it my fault that I did not do enough? Was the pain so unbearable? Has they become so upset with life, and finally gave up in despair? Is it because of family genetics? We may never have a perfect answer to these questions. But by understanding and building perspectives, we can do more and better - be there to soothe, love unconditionally and without any judgement, give a hug, give quality time and focus and get rid of at least some loneliness. There will be many unanswered questions, and the purpose of this memoir does not seem to be about resolving or to find a solution. We cannot get 'rid' of this disease and will have to continue living alongside it, hence the learning, the understanding and the perspective will be of immense help, opens up our minds and can be a potential lifesaver. This book is invaluable and may be a lifesaver. It could be the life of a loved one, a family member, a friend, a stranger or even yours. ========== Depression, hysteria, melancholia, nervousness, neurosis, neurasthenia, madness, lunacy, insanity, delirium, derangement, demonic possession, black humors, black bile, the blues, the blue devil, a brown study, a broken heart, a funk, a storm, a brainstorm, the abyss, an inferno, an apocalypse, Hell, the Void, anxiety, a lack of affect, panic, loneliness, bad wiring, irritability, hostility, unipolar disorder, bipolar disorder, mixed depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit disorder, borderline personality disorder, bulimia, anorexia, rumination, grief, mourning, malingering, laziness, sadness, despondency, dysfunction, dysthymia, detachment, disassociation, dementia praecox, neuralgia, oversensitivity, hypersensitivity, idiocy, unreasonableness, an unsound mind, cowardice, obstinacy, obduracy, intransigence, instability, apathy, lethargy, ennui, recalcitrance, battle fatigue, shell shock, self-pity, self-indulgence, weakness, withdrawal, delusion, dissatisfaction, negativity, a turn in the barrel, a break in a life narrative, bad thoughts, bad feelings, falling apart, falling to pieces, wigging out, freaking out, a chemical imbalance, a heavy heart, self-destructiveness, excitation, exhaustion, thoughts of hurting oneself or others, the thousand-yard stare, rage, misery, gloom, desolation, wretchedness, hopelessness, unworthiness, mania, morbidity, genius, terror, dread, a descent, a fall, suicidality, suicidal ideation, aggression, regression, deregulation, decompensation, deadness, drama, agony, angst, breakdown, a disease of the mind, a disorder, heartbreak, rough sailing, crackup, catatonia, agitation, losing one’s mind, losing one’s way, losing heart, wasting away, a crisis, a struggle, a trial, existential despair, a philosophical problem, a decision taken after long thought, shame, shyness, ranting and raving, the furies, an old friend, a constant companion, a punishment, a tragedy, a curse, a crime against nature, a crime against God, a sin, a mystery, an enigma, and, of course, psychosis—suicide, in the past and in our own time, has been called, and attributed to, many things. ========== "This letter, this report, this book, seeks a paradigm shift in our understanding of suicide in society". A must-read. Thank you, Donald Antrim!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Scarpa

    “As long as we see suicide as a rational act taken after rational deliberation, it will remain incomprehensible. Stigma, society’s unacknowledged violence toward the sick, will remain strong. But if we accept that the suicide is trying to survive, then we can begin to describe an illness. I believe that we must make this leap in our thinking. We must rule out myth and speculation. This letter, this report, this book, seeks a paradigm shift in our understanding of suicide in society. It finds nei “As long as we see suicide as a rational act taken after rational deliberation, it will remain incomprehensible. Stigma, society’s unacknowledged violence toward the sick, will remain strong. But if we accept that the suicide is trying to survive, then we can begin to describe an illness. I believe that we must make this leap in our thinking. We must rule out myth and speculation. This letter, this report, this book, seeks a paradigm shift in our understanding of suicide in society. It finds neither will nor agency in suicide, only dying, and calls for a great commitment to the hospital, to our community and our health. What is the hospital, if not all of us? What is medicine, if not touch? Suicide must not be imagined as enigmatic; it isn’t poetry or philosophy. I have come to think of suicide as a natural history that may begin in trauma and abjection, or the withdrawal of touch, and that ends in death by one’s own hand. The purpose of suicide is death, not what we may think of as rage, revenge, or atonement for sin. To the extent that the suicide acts, it is but a falling away.” A phenomenal and necessary book; this generation's Darkness Visible.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Martha Southgate

    I’ll start out by saying that I’ve been acquainted with Donald for many years and knew about his journey through hell from friends in common. But knowing him doesn’t bias my response to the book. It’s masterful, an incredible rethinking of suicide and depression. It may be a paradigm shifter.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Montemarano

    I've long been a fan of Antrim's short stories. As much as I admire THE EMERALD LIGHT IN THE AIR, this new memoir, ONE FRIDAY IN APRIL, is just as powerful, albeit in a different way and in a different genre—though addressing many of the same subjects, i.e. mental illness and suicide. Beyond Antrim's redefining suicide as a disease—rather than, say, an act or a choice (in other words, one can suffer from suicide without actually having committed suicide)—what makes this book stand out to me is h I've long been a fan of Antrim's short stories. As much as I admire THE EMERALD LIGHT IN THE AIR, this new memoir, ONE FRIDAY IN APRIL, is just as powerful, albeit in a different way and in a different genre—though addressing many of the same subjects, i.e. mental illness and suicide. Beyond Antrim's redefining suicide as a disease—rather than, say, an act or a choice (in other words, one can suffer from suicide without actually having committed suicide)—what makes this book stand out to me is how its form and style mirror its subject: Antrim's narrative mind jumps—often suddenly—from his hospitalization to his childhood to the "one Friday in April" when he almost fell to his death. Sometimes, these leaps happen within a paragraph, from sentence to sentence, as if the narrator is lost in space and time, as if everything is always happening at once—his parents' alcoholic, violent marriage, his breakdowns, his hospitalizations. An important book, and a work of art.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Parkin

    r As someone who went through similar experiences as Antrim, I would highly recommend this memoir. I attempted suicide by jumping in front of a Metro train in 2015. Doctors had to amputate portions of both of my feet. I resonate with Antrim’s words: “The paralysis of suicide is not apathy or stillness. We may feel encased, restrained somehow. Our bodies might break, or something outside us will break. What will break?” Like Antrim, I spent four months in a mental health hospital. Like Antrim, I r As someone who went through similar experiences as Antrim, I would highly recommend this memoir. I attempted suicide by jumping in front of a Metro train in 2015. Doctors had to amputate portions of both of my feet. I resonate with Antrim’s words: “The paralysis of suicide is not apathy or stillness. We may feel encased, restrained somehow. Our bodies might break, or something outside us will break. What will break?” Like Antrim, I spent four months in a mental health hospital. Like Antrim, I also recovered after many weeks of electroconvulsive therapy ECT, although in my case, I received the ECT after I had moved to one of several assisted living facilities where I lived for five years. Like Antrim, the ECT awakened my senses to experience the world. Like Antrim, before the ECT, I was told writing would help me, but I found it impossible. I am not an accomplished writer as is Donald Antrim, but after ECT, writing allowed me to share my experiences as I write articles, and prepare talks about mental health recovey that I give virtually. Upon recovery, I resonate with Antrim’s words “I felt gratitude and something that seemed brand new in my life, a sense of calm, even happiness.” I am grateful for Donald Antrim for sharing his experiences.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mildly Annoyed Rabbit

    Heard about the book from a New York Times review, which brought me to a New Yorker article written by the author. His writing is so compelling, I bought the book. Read it through in one sitting. The author is a tremendous writer and has some thoughtful insights into his disease and the the challenges of living in the modern world and dealing with loneliness and isolation.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nona

    “Can we say whether our brains control our bodies, or whether our bodies inform our brains? Does my heart pound in anxiety, or am I anxious because my heart is pounding?” Author Donald Antrim brings us along on his complicated and difficult journey through his illness, suicide. He was supported and received the treatments he needed as he begged for help with his symptoms, aware that he was not well. His memoir of his closeness to suicide and the importance of empathy and the connection we have w “Can we say whether our brains control our bodies, or whether our bodies inform our brains? Does my heart pound in anxiety, or am I anxious because my heart is pounding?” Author Donald Antrim brings us along on his complicated and difficult journey through his illness, suicide. He was supported and received the treatments he needed as he begged for help with his symptoms, aware that he was not well. His memoir of his closeness to suicide and the importance of empathy and the connection we have with one another from birth throughout our lives is unsettling, yet hopeful and thought-provoking.

  8. 4 out of 5

    MountainAshleah

    My goodness, this memoir. It started out as a slow burn but then became a bonfire of self admission, sharing, and bravery. Carrying in my head the suicides of my father and close friend, I've read extensively, the usual collection, including most works by DFW, who makes a brief appearance and would tragicallyone day take his own life. I thought this menoir might be just another to add to my ever growing dark but comforting collection. It's not. This memoir is not for everyone, but for those of u My goodness, this memoir. It started out as a slow burn but then became a bonfire of self admission, sharing, and bravery. Carrying in my head the suicides of my father and close friend, I've read extensively, the usual collection, including most works by DFW, who makes a brief appearance and would tragicallyone day take his own life. I thought this menoir might be just another to add to my ever growing dark but comforting collection. It's not. This memoir is not for everyone, but for those of us who know, it will resonate. I can't remember how this memoir wound up on my audio book list, but it did, and I'm grateful to the author and the publishers who brought it to life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan K Perry

    This will be brief. I think it was helpful to me to have read all of Antrim's novels before reading this wrenching memoir of his period of near-suicide. Perhaps that is because his novels showed me how brilliant he is, and then to learn how often he was so close to ending it all. Mental illness can be so unsettling when you find out it is part of the life of someone you know or think you know because you're a fan of their public (writing) self. The physically painful part of it all was new to me This will be brief. I think it was helpful to me to have read all of Antrim's novels before reading this wrenching memoir of his period of near-suicide. Perhaps that is because his novels showed me how brilliant he is, and then to learn how often he was so close to ending it all. Mental illness can be so unsettling when you find out it is part of the life of someone you know or think you know because you're a fan of their public (writing) self. The physically painful part of it all was new to me. Antrim's position is that suicide and its ideation needs to be thought of and treated differently, as a mental illness, not as a carefully thought-out decision. I don't want to shortchange his thesis, nor his beautifully written story, so I'll stop here and strongly urge anyone with any interest in the mind and psychology to read the book yourself.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    This is not one for the downhearted; it's quite depressing and the uplift at the end is more of a "well, maybe, for now." Antrim, a fairly successful writer, begins by describing in detail a night in 2006 spent on the roof of his apartment building, hanging from the fire escape, trying to decide whether or not to let go. This incident leads to a series of hospitalizations, therapy, clinical trials, and, after initial resistance, a course of ECT ("shock treatment"). Ironically, it was a phone cal This is not one for the downhearted; it's quite depressing and the uplift at the end is more of a "well, maybe, for now." Antrim, a fairly successful writer, begins by describing in detail a night in 2006 spent on the roof of his apartment building, hanging from the fire escape, trying to decide whether or not to let go. This incident leads to a series of hospitalizations, therapy, clinical trials, and, after initial resistance, a course of ECT ("shock treatment"). Ironically, it was a phone call from the celebrated David Foster Wallace--an author that Antrim admired but with whom he had only slight acquaintance--that persuaded him to give ECT a go. Wallace himself committed suicide in 2008. Antrim details his "recovery" (or "recoveries"), each inevitably followed by another setback. Resisting the diagnosis of "depression," he proposes that the inclination towards suicide is a condition in itself, perhaps kicked off by childhood experiences but not subject to the usual treatments for depression. Antrim's parents were both alcoholic, and both were also abusers; his beloved mother took her rage at her husband out on her son. At the time of his suicide attempt, lost in grief but with mixed feeling about her death, he was working on a a memoir of his mother. It's no surprise that Antrim's relationships with women were, for the most part, unsuccessful. Although he appears to be in a goo relationship at the memoir's end, one can't help but wonder for how long. Antrim's memoir is an honest one, holding nothing back. 'One Friday in April' has been well received and compared to William Styron's 'Darkness Visible.' It's a difficult book to say one "enjoyed" reading, but Antrim's insights were illuminating.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Pj

    I simply cannot wait for this book. It’s getting my five-star rating now, despite its October publication date. For anyone else on tetherhooks over this book, I’d suggest reading or re-reading Antrim’s New Yorker piece, Everywhere and Nowhere: A Journey Through Suicide. It blew me away and left me hoping to read much more of his story. Fortunately, it’s almost here. currently on page 22 What a strong beginning. Antrim is hanging from his rooftop and his neighbors seem not to notice. For him, that I simply cannot wait for this book. It’s getting my five-star rating now, despite its October publication date. For anyone else on tetherhooks over this book, I’d suggest reading or re-reading Antrim’s New Yorker piece, Everywhere and Nowhere: A Journey Through Suicide. It blew me away and left me hoping to read much more of his story. Fortunately, it’s almost here. currently on page 22 What a strong beginning. Antrim is hanging from his rooftop and his neighbors seem not to notice. For him, that was definitely best. No complaints meant no rumors, lawsuits, etc. . Obscurity during his crisis preserved his chance for reentry into mainstream life, however long his recovery would last. And, NIMBY drama ripe for a more salacious memoirist wasn’t missed by Antrim. As he recalled his hours in limbo between life and death, he laid bare our alienating domestic spaces and underscored a major, yet overlooked fact about suicide: The risk and burden of it almost always falls on the suicidal person. Able-normative people love to complain about how much “trouble” suicidal people create. But, suicidal people usually experience what Antrim did - life-endangering levels of isolation. Suicide wouldn’t be among the top 10 causes of death in the United States, if suicidal people had any measurable impact on *any* social unit. I also was impressed, yet disheartened, by Antrim’s habit of blaming himself for interpersonal problems he probably wasn’t responsible for. He was bereaved, had excelled in an emotionally-taxing career (The Afterlife was nominated for a National Book Critic’s Circle Award), and had spared himself no “treatment”-related risk (including psychiatric drugs, which increase suicidal feelings in many people, especially after long-term use). Having met society’s standards for “successful coping” with trauma, hadn’t he “earned” compassion, patience, and respect - basic care we ALL should receive, no matter what? That question isn’t posed, let alone answered by Antrim. His strength is subtlety and, as his story reveals, he’s ethical to a fault. Even his harshest criticisms, many directed at society as a whole, land very, very gently. This story is driven by Antrim’s self-discipline and empathy. As a reader, I couldn’t help but admire it. And, as a “mentally ill” person, it’s frustrating as hell. To see Antrim give so much, after years have passed, to people who hadn’t cared at all about him? Maddening! currently on page 32 The evacuation of Antrim from his roof to his hospital bed was deeply absorbing and suspenseful. Flashbacks to his childhood, all seamlessly organized and paced, emerge at a faster clip here. One word came to mind as I read about his early life: cowed. His parents coveted violence and chaos every moment of every day, resulting in stress-related physical illnesses which forced Antrim out of safer environments, such as K-12 school. But, physical proximity to his abusive parents wasn’t his primary source of danger. He was, in my view, FAR more terrorized by his parents’ psychological grip on him. Those degenerates actually succeeded in making Antrim fear our justice system more than them. Immobilized by his misplaced fear, he fully digested his parents’ whacked-out delusions: Antrim and his sister are “playing” as his parents fight, not fleeing; Publishing a book about his hellish upbringing is “betrayal”, not catharsis, honesty, or an artifact of his immense talent. Such extreme disadvantage, sustained early in life and set upon him by a small number of clearly identifiable people, shouldn’t have been hard for “professionals” to address. But, psychiatry, as Antrim would eventually realize, has mastered the scam of providing “help” no one needs, for “defects” which do not exist. Society’s only PC rationale for suicide - inadequate access to psychiatry - can’t be used as a scapegoat for Antrim’s suicide attempt. He invested himself, financially and personally, in psychiatry’s “gold standard” of care - deinstitutionalized, urban, uptown, private, “bio-psycho-social” (anyone who isn’t a patient or a policy wonk may have to Google that phrase). To overstate how much he lost from his investment is, frankly, impossible. He could have disclosed anything about it. A “mentally ill” man, many years recovered, who could document his loss, if necessary, would be allowed his candor. For once, perfect “civility” wouldn’t be demanded of him before he could speak. Antrim’s biggest losses were irreplaceable ones: privacy, trust, and time. Moments of reflection on losses so large usually provoke moments of unbridled recrimination. Some people can handle losing possessions; Most can’t handle a loss of integrity or potential.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Azarin

    Powerful. The sober tone of the writing intensified the horror of the narration. An eye opening insight into suicide and depression.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Tittle

    I read this in one sitting and recommend that. It is a very powerful and beautifully written meditation on the pain of suicidal thoughts, and how those thoughts affected Antrim physically. It's also a sort of good news report not the state of psychiatric hospitals and ECT, both of which served Antrim well. My heart goes out to him and all who suffer this way. I read this in one sitting and recommend that. It is a very powerful and beautifully written meditation on the pain of suicidal thoughts, and how those thoughts affected Antrim physically. It's also a sort of good news report not the state of psychiatric hospitals and ECT, both of which served Antrim well. My heart goes out to him and all who suffer this way.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dora Plummer magovern

    Wow. Everyone should have to read this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Loflin

    Does for suicide a lot of the things I loved that Anne Boyer's The Undying did for cancer. A really effective mix of vulnerably autobiographical and analytical/reasoned. Does for suicide a lot of the things I loved that Anne Boyer's The Undying did for cancer. A really effective mix of vulnerably autobiographical and analytical/reasoned.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Trenary

    Goodreads win and a hard pass. It takes a lot for me to hate a book. But this one managed it. I made it 50 pages in before DNF’ing and even that was a struggle. I wanted to DNF on page two from something he’d said that was super manipulative towards his girlfriend. He told me no less than six times in the first few pages what he was wearing. Super narcissistic. This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It is a book to be thrown with great force.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Antrim posits that suicide may not be rash, an impulse of the moment, but the result of alienation. A failed struggle to live integrated with others. His life demonstrates both massive personal violations pushing him out to the edges of society, as well as the paths taken to find his way back. A somewhat bittersweet happy ending. Great book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    A very personal and honest admission of the author's mental health struggles. He fully opens up in order to argue his point–that suicide needs a new framework for how we think and deal with it as a society, via social connection, destigmatization, etc. He manages to do this with exquisitely precise and beautiful prose and without coming off preachy or woo-woo-y as many modern books can these days. I felt connected and touched by the effort required to convey such a heartfelt and important messag A very personal and honest admission of the author's mental health struggles. He fully opens up in order to argue his point–that suicide needs a new framework for how we think and deal with it as a society, via social connection, destigmatization, etc. He manages to do this with exquisitely precise and beautiful prose and without coming off preachy or woo-woo-y as many modern books can these days. I felt connected and touched by the effort required to convey such a heartfelt and important message.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Lindsay

    A timely and topical call to action, a plea, about the changing nature of suicide, told from someone who has been 'on the brink' and back, ONE FRIDAY IN APRIL is a tender, emotional, raw, exploration of what the author posits a 'social problem.' I cannot love this book any more. ONE FRIDAY IN APRIL (October 12, 2021, from W.W. Norton & Co.) is profound, thought-provoking, and infused with clear-eyed examination of one's life, but the bigger issue at hand: the human condition, sigma. Through a ra A timely and topical call to action, a plea, about the changing nature of suicide, told from someone who has been 'on the brink' and back, ONE FRIDAY IN APRIL is a tender, emotional, raw, exploration of what the author posits a 'social problem.' I cannot love this book any more. ONE FRIDAY IN APRIL (October 12, 2021, from W.W. Norton & Co.) is profound, thought-provoking, and infused with clear-eyed examination of one's life, but the bigger issue at hand: the human condition, sigma. Through a raw and harrowing--yet beautiful--account of the author's suicide attempt, we are lead right onto the fire escape where he vacillated on the decision to end his life. For a brief, but complex time, we're co-pilots with Antrim as he allows us into his suicidal state of mind, the downward spiral, the dark thoughts, his psychiatric hospitalization and recovery, the gorgeous reinvention of suicide. I was struck and in awe with the way Donald Antrim reframes the stigma of suicide, how it's not merely the result of a 'depression,' which he posits is not 'near enough' but that suicide, the act of even thinking about suicide is even bigger still and stems from trauma. This section, early in the book, resonated: "I see it [suicide] as a long illness, an illness with origins in trauma and isolation, in deprivation of touch, in violence and neglect, in the loss of home and belonging [...] it's etiology, it's beginning, whether early in life, or later in life, in the family or beyond, is social in nature. I see suicide as a social disease. I will refer to suicide, not depression." This floored me. It made sense. My maternal family is rife with mental illness, this speaks to many of origins presented, at least in my family. ONE FRIDAY IN APRIL is unsentimental but gorgeously rendered. I found it inspiring and jarring, honest and authentic. It's about being misunderstood, but it's also life-affirming and speaks to the human condition in a way I've yet to see. This book is not long, but it's complex and multilayered, delving into Antrim's past, his writing life, along with touches of his future. I felt emotionally wrung-out as a I read, but the book ends on a hopeful note. If you or a loved one is struggling with your mental health, help is available. A book should not take the place of qualified medical care; please, if you need assistance, seek the nearest emergency room. You don't have to fight alone. I was reminded, in part, of the work of Catherine Cho (INFERNO) meets Jill Bialosky's ASYLUM with a touch of THE NINTH HOUR (Alice McDermott), Leesa Cross-Smith's THIS CLOSE TO OKAY, Kathryn Craft's THE FAR END OF HAPPY and Elizabeth Brundage's THE VANISHING POINT. For all my reviews, including author interviews, please visit: www.leslielindsay.com|Always with a Book. Special thanks to Norton Publishing for this review copy. All thoughts are my own.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda

    I have never read anything that has painted such a vivid picture of suicide. My heart ached for what the author endured but am glad he is currently living his best life. While the book doesn't flow in a traditional way, it made sense. I am so glad I won this book in a good reads drawing and am now able to share with others who may be helped by it. I have never read anything that has painted such a vivid picture of suicide. My heart ached for what the author endured but am glad he is currently living his best life. While the book doesn't flow in a traditional way, it made sense. I am so glad I won this book in a good reads drawing and am now able to share with others who may be helped by it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ann Evans

    Antrim breaks all the rules in this just-published memoir, achieving a result that is unique and profoundly moving, fascinating, and informative. The story that holds it all together issues from an addled mind where reality is mixed with passion, memory, and illness. Of the classic storylines, this is a man takes a journey, or perhaps a man climbs out of a hole. The first pages of the book find the author barely averting suicide while hanging from a fire escape on a chilly evening and the last pag Antrim breaks all the rules in this just-published memoir, achieving a result that is unique and profoundly moving, fascinating, and informative. The story that holds it all together issues from an addled mind where reality is mixed with passion, memory, and illness. Of the classic storylines, this is a man takes a journey, or perhaps a man climbs out of a hole. The first pages of the book find the author barely averting suicide while hanging from a fire escape on a chilly evening and the last pages find him sitting on a couch listening to his wife play the piano. Chronologically, the story begins with his birth and ends in the present day. How can a writer convey an entire life (so far) in 133 pages? Read and see. The poet Patrick Lane achieves a similar feat in his memoir, What the Stones Remember. The book also recalls the “magical thinking” experienced by Joan Didion in her eponymous book, The Year of Magical Thinking. Only Antrim says his untethered and chaotic patterns of thought and action have lasted all his life. His suffering takes place in a subjective infinity, Hell, an eternal state of almost-death. A cloud of confusion and pain lies over the book. If you try to pierce it, you’ll come up with another cloud, though in the end, Antrim gives the reader some ideas and a basket of compassion to hang onto. The point of the story is Antrim’s opinion that our understanding of suicide is all wrong.  He states his oppositional view in the opening aphorism:  “Ask not what disease the person has, but rather, what person the disease has. (Sir William Osler)” The widow writhing in the agony of her loss need not ask “Why did he leave me?” Her attempt to make sense of it is speculation fed by myth. There was no choice involved in leaving her. Antrim writes, “As long as we see suicide as a rational act taken after rational deliberation, it will remain incomprehensible.” Antrim quotes another memoir, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, in which William Styron “argues that the word ‘depression’ is inadequate to describe this illness…Suicide, in [Antrim’s] experience, is not that.”  He repeats that it is not “an act or a choice, a decision or a wish.” It is an illness which began long before he was hanging from a fire escape. It is a “social disease” caused by some kind of deprivation—he ruminates whether his case could have been caused by lack of touch in infancy. He makes the reasonable and logical argument that suicides don’t want to die. They are taken from us by illness, and that illness is not depression but suicide itself. Antrim has found relief through numerous Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) treatments. The book is not a treatise praising ECT, but a plea to readers to realize that the people under treatment for suicidal ideation or suicide attempts, and the people already taken from us by suicide, are not “wild-eyed types,” but Everyman. Everywoman. In its analysis and pleas for mercy, the book is a powerful statement supported by the author’s personal story and the stories of others who did not survive, such as David Foster Wallace. Perhaps the greatest miracle of this memoir is the artistry of Antrim’s writing. The reader is in today, then yesterday, then the day before yesterday, then tomorrow, without the slightest hitch. Oh, it looks easy, but anyone who has tried it can tell you it isn’t. Using his authorial legerdemain, he changes voice with stunning effect.  Read this: “…We went to a room down the hall. It was an operating room—lots of medical equipment, but also computers and electronics. You lie in your gown and your socks on the table. You’re looking up at the white ceiling…” Can you feel the stunning change from third person to second? Suddenly it’s not computers and electronics…it’s YOU lying there. This brilliant change of voice shocked and unsettled this reader. In the last few lines, Antrim writes that while sitting on the couch listening to his wife play the piano, he is writing a letter to “you.” What the reader thought was a memoir written for the general public has been all along an intimate letter, a confession and explanation, a thing that is adamantly real and present, important to “you.” It’s hard to stop writing about or quoting this book. This reader is left with gratitude that Antrim has not let his suicidal suffering slip into the past but has brought it to us in present detail, so we can understand and perhaps better help those people who are living in its eternal hell. The message of the book is not that we should pity what Antrim went through, but what we all are going to do about it. He does us the grace of bringing us his call to arms through a page-turning, engrossing, tale of life and death, or death and life.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    This was my first Antrim book. I was intrigued by the reviews declaring it a pathbreaking meditation on suicide as someone who’s experienced suicidality at various levels since childhood and read a good number of books on the topic. Antrim is clearly a writer of exceptional talent, and his vivid descriptions and carefully mapped nonlinear structure fully immerse you into what a suicidal crisis looks like. His descriptions of his thought processes and experience with the mental health system were This was my first Antrim book. I was intrigued by the reviews declaring it a pathbreaking meditation on suicide as someone who’s experienced suicidality at various levels since childhood and read a good number of books on the topic. Antrim is clearly a writer of exceptional talent, and his vivid descriptions and carefully mapped nonlinear structure fully immerse you into what a suicidal crisis looks like. His descriptions of his thought processes and experience with the mental health system were very familiar and show tremendous reflection. On the key theses that the book lays out (the supposed paradigm shifts Antrim seeks to spread): that suicide is a disease in and of of itself, that those who drift toward suicide are inherently irrational, and that mental hospitals are loving places of refuge that society should reclaim post-deinstitutionalization, I couldn’t disagree more, and he offered little in this book to support any of it. I am of course thrilled to read Antrim is happy to be alive and had a pleasant hospital experience. I do worry that these ideas, which to my knowledge would not be terribly controversial with clinicians, push strongly in the direction of limiting individual rights for those who experience suicidal thoughts in the interest of ensured preservation. I won’t bother debating the irrationality point in this review, except to say I think the book should’ve wrestled more explicitly with its meaning. Fear of hospitalization, which in my experience can be warranted (I didn’t stay in a place as nice as Antrim did here), is a main reason why people like myself work very carefully to avoid revealing these thoughts to others and therefore miss chances to process these thoughts out loud. Loss of control, disempowerment, and humiliation are unfortunate things to place on anyone, and especially dangerous things to place on a suicidal individual, and while I agree with Antrim that today’s hospitals look nothing like Ken Kesey’s version, the experience and subsequent money owed can accurately be described as traumatic. While I found myself nodding along to many things throughout and think this book should be read by those wanting to get a view of the mind in the state, I do think this book suffers when it tries to extend his personal experience to a general description of suicidality and found the main arguments and societal prescriptions underdeveloped and not compelling.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jeannine

    This is a gut punch of a memoir, but it is so important and should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand mental illness and suicide. A transformational account of Antrim’s descent into psychosis, his ongoing struggles with anxiety and depression, his repeated hospitalizations, and the various medication and electroshock treatments he underwent to get to a more stabilized existence. Antrim provides the gritty details of his illness and various treatments, but he also provides an in This is a gut punch of a memoir, but it is so important and should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand mental illness and suicide. A transformational account of Antrim’s descent into psychosis, his ongoing struggles with anxiety and depression, his repeated hospitalizations, and the various medication and electroshock treatments he underwent to get to a more stabilized existence. Antrim provides the gritty details of his illness and various treatments, but he also provides an insightful overview of suicide and mental illness, asking the reader to reconsider their biases of this phenomenon. He prods us to rethink the mysteries and stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness and to consider our society’s culpability in aiding and abetting it. A very compelling account that provides more questions than answers, but leaves you with a deeper understanding of how all-consuming mental illness and the desire to end it all can be. An important book that would make an interesting pairing with Sigrid Nunez’s What Are You Going Through? in a book discussion.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan Emmet

    My family has been plagued with suicide and alcoholism and bi-polar disorder for generations. I read excerpts from Antrim's memoir in the New Yorker. It resonated. Do I want to die? Do I want to rethink what suicide/ideation is? No and yes. And he succeeds. Childhood trauma lurking in brain or body? Decades of witnessing the dissolution of mother and father? Coming to terms with trauma? The value of ECT? The path to recovery involving relapse? How to "be" in recovery? What are the lines between ill My family has been plagued with suicide and alcoholism and bi-polar disorder for generations. I read excerpts from Antrim's memoir in the New Yorker. It resonated. Do I want to die? Do I want to rethink what suicide/ideation is? No and yes. And he succeeds. Childhood trauma lurking in brain or body? Decades of witnessing the dissolution of mother and father? Coming to terms with trauma? The value of ECT? The path to recovery involving relapse? How to "be" in recovery? What are the lines between illness and choice? Do they move? "Were it up to me, I might give this illness a whole new name, not depression or even suicide or psychosis. I might call suicide death in place. The name speaks to the body in sickness and in society, to a death that seems to exist everywhere and nowhere." There is so much here to ponder.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ron Scrogham

    This brave, intimate account of suicide, a sort of "death in place," by the writer Donald Antrim, offers the perspective that suicide is not an impulsive act, but a long process of suiciding, (with origins in trauma, loneliness, lack of touch, abandonment), that may culminate in death. The story is raw and painful but shows a way for those suffering from the disease of suicide to seek help and for those who love these ones to give support. It is particularly poignant and sad that it was a phone This brave, intimate account of suicide, a sort of "death in place," by the writer Donald Antrim, offers the perspective that suicide is not an impulsive act, but a long process of suiciding, (with origins in trauma, loneliness, lack of touch, abandonment), that may culminate in death. The story is raw and painful but shows a way for those suffering from the disease of suicide to seek help and for those who love these ones to give support. It is particularly poignant and sad that it was a phone call from David Foster Wallace that prompted Antrim to agree to ECT and to begin to get better. This is an important contribution to the literature of suicide.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Glenn Dixon

    NOTES Brutal, direct the list of synonyms Clear and confident voice from the get-go; I recommended it to a friend when i was only 20% into it the depth and recalcitrance of suicidality The exacting, committed tone of the reading, sure of putting one foot in front of the other Doesn't offer hope so much as a call, through this so-called letter, to change our minds about what suicide means, about whether choice is involved at all, about what the disease of it means, how much those who succumb have alrea NOTES Brutal, direct the list of synonyms Clear and confident voice from the get-go; I recommended it to a friend when i was only 20% into it the depth and recalcitrance of suicidality The exacting, committed tone of the reading, sure of putting one foot in front of the other Doesn't offer hope so much as a call, through this so-called letter, to change our minds about what suicide means, about whether choice is involved at all, about what the disease of it means, how much those who succumb have already fought against it. It gains the authority to issue that call through the doggedness and thoroughness of its revelations. Also checked out Kindle book

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    I wish I could give this ZERO stars. I had high hopes for this topic and author. But the book is an absolute fail. It never goes anywhere or expresses anything helpful. It has no point, never comes to any helpful thoughts, no correlating stories that may be enlightening (or even interesting at the bare minimum). It is just an all-over-the-place mess of nothing and empty, meaningless thoughts.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Still processing this .... it's not an easy one to be with. Powerful, heartbreaking and transformative. It has changed the way I look at suicide and probably should be read by a wide swath of society. Still processing this .... it's not an easy one to be with. Powerful, heartbreaking and transformative. It has changed the way I look at suicide and probably should be read by a wide swath of society.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steve Jordan

    The Bell Jar, Darkness Visible, and now One Friday in April.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Harrowing.

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