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The Eden Express describes from the inside Mark Vonnegut's experience in the late '60s and early '70s--a recent college grad; in love; living communally on a farm, with a famous and doting father, cherished dog, and prized jalopy--and then the nervous breakdowns in all their slow-motion intimacy, the taste of mortality and opportunity for humor they provided, and the grim despair they afforded as well. That he emerged to write this funny and true book and then moved on to find the meaningful life that for a while had seemed beyond reach is what ultimately happens in The Eden Express. But the real story here is that throughout his harrowing experience his sense of humor let him see the humanity of what he was going through, and his gift of language let him describe it in such a moving way that others could begin to imagine both its utter ordinariness as well as the madness we all share.
"Most diseases can be separated from one's self ... schizophrenia is something we are." So begins Mark Vonnegut's depiction of his descent into, and eventual emergence from, mental illness. As a recent college graduate, self-avowed hippie, and son of a counterculture hero, Vonnegut begins to experience increasingly delusional thinking, suicidal thoughts, and physical incapacity. In February 1971 he is committed to a psychiatric hospital. The Eden Express, an ALA Notable Book first published over 25 years ago, is his honest, thoughtful, and moving account of the illness of schizophrenia.
More than thirty years after the publication of his acclaimed memoir The Eden Express, Mark Vonnegut continues his remarkable story in this searingly funny, iconoclastic account of coping with mental illness, finding his calling as a pediatrician, and learning that willpower isn't nearly enough. Here is Mark's childhood spent as the son of a struggling writer in a house that eventually held seven children after his aunt and uncle died and left four orphans. And here is the world after Mark was released from a mental hospital to find his family forever altered. At the late age of twenty-eight--and after nineteen rejections--Mark was accepted to Harvard Medical School, where he gained purpose, a life, and some control over his condition. The brilliantly evoked events of Mark Vonnegut's life are at once perfectly unique and achingly relatable. There are the manic episodes, during which he felt burdened with saving the world, juxtaposed against the real-world responsibilities of running a pediatric practice. At times he felt that his parents lives would improve if only they had a few hundred more bucks in their bank account, while at other points his father's fame merely heightened expectations that he be better, funnier (and crazier) than the average person. Ultimately a tribute to the small, daily, and positive parts of a life interrupted by bipolar disorder,Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So is a wise, unsentimental, and inspiring book that will resonate with generations of readers.