Tuesday, April 23, 2013

January First - Michael Schofield (Audio)

I received this audio from Kathy (Bermudaonion) with a disclaimer that while it was fascinating, it was also going to probably enrage me and make me squirm.  That kind of an endorsement is irresistible!  But just several hours into it, I was texting Kathy like a madwoman.  Boy, she was not KIDDING.  This was the craziest thing I'd listened to in some time, and not for the obvious reasons.  Let me explain...

Synopsis:  January Schofield has always been a bright child.  At even the age of three, her IQ was at a genius level...she could read, do advanced math, and had the inquisitiveness of the gifted.  She was wildly creative, imagining a land called Calalini, and entertained a multitude of imaginary friends.  

Somewhere along the line though, Janni's parents started to notice aberrations in her behavior...biting, scratching, screaming, her inability to get along with other children.  Soon Janni's imaginary friends were telling her to attack her baby brother or injure herself.  Even the strongest medications would have little effect.  Her parents could no longer control her.    

This is a memoir that details the long and frustrating road of trying to come to grips with a mentally ill child, of trying to get medical help and a proper diagnosis (ultimately that of schizophrenia), and the disastrous effects that a mental illness can have on a family.

My thoughts:  A first blush, one would think that this book was written to help other families that have children suffering from one of the most debilitating diseases known to man...schizophrenia.  Presumably, it should be all about January, her struggles, and how this family fought its way through a unique form of hell while trying to get her help.  But it isn't quite.

This book is all about the parents, primarily the dad.  It is narrated by dad, and it became obvious to me very early on that there were bigger issues going on here above and beyond a sick little girl.  The parents were crazy.  Because Janni was smart, she was allowed to do as she pleased.  There was no discipline...the parents just followed her around and begged her to behave, hovering and coddling and using her brilliance as an excuse for horrid behavior.  Then, in order to make Janni happy, THEY DECIDED TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY!!!  A baby that was lost in the shuffle, drug around to hospitals, doctor's offices, and whose safety was threatened daily by a mentally ill older sister.  That child broke my heart.  

For most of the book, the parents come across as hysterical.  First in denial, then in a panic to get Janni help.  They are rude to teachers and medical personnel, the dad's conviction that he and he only could save his daughter, and at one point the dad actually tries to kill himself by OD-ing on anti-depressants.  The whole book reeked of martyrdom.  

I do believe that Janni was indeed very sick.  Just roam around on YouTube and you will see what I mean.  And I have a lot of guilt being judgemental of these parents who have been through a terrible time.  None of us know how we would handle such a thing.  But it was almost more than I could take, listening to the actions of these two.  And after seeing this sick child paraded around on the promotional circuit for various talk shows like a circus act, I began to have the sick realization that this book might be more of a cash grab or a cry for attention than a selfless desire to help others. 

Was the book fascinating?  Absolutely, in the way a 30-car-pileup is fascinating.

A few words about the audio production:  Our narrator for this memoir was Patrick Lawlor, who I have heard in several other productions.  He certainly did a fine job of becoming Michael Schofield, in fact his portrayal of this family in crisis, particularly Michael, was such that it aggravated me even further...and I mean that in the best way.  If the narrator can stir emotions in me, that is a testament to his/her skill. 

Audio book length:  8 hours and 31 minutes

4 out of 5 stars  

       

17 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds like it would be too upsetting for me!

caite said...

Squirm is an excellent think!

Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader said...

I read this and had some of the very same thoughts as you did. The dad seemed SO critical of the mom. It made me uncomfortable. :/

bermudaonion said...

This book would make a great book club pick. I've discussed it with you, Julie, and my mom. I hated to be judgmental too, but something was off in the family dynamics for sure. I guess they need the money to support the lifestyle they've chosen.

Beth F said...

Totally NOT for me. Ugh.

Michele said...

Now this is something I would read....despite having two children and I know it would freak me out.

Zibilee said...

I find this whole thing sad. That the parents have doted on the little girl and let her be as wild as she wants, as well as having another baby FOR HER, well that's just cray! Schizophrenia is terrible enough as it is without this kind of wackadoo stuff going on around it all. The father sounds like a narcissist.

Literary Feline said...

Mental Illness can be so dehabilitating and it impacts everyone in a family. I see it every day in my line of work.

I don't know that I will read this book, and, I have to admit, what you've described of the marketing for the book disturbs me. Hopefully it isn't meant as a money grab.

Jeane said...

I was a bit surprised to read all this, as I've seen several reviews about the book that didn't mention (or at least not so emphatically) the parents' flaws in how they handled their child. It would be something I'd probably feel uncomfortable pointing out, but at the same time it might make me squirm to read about it. Regardless, my curiosity is sparked so I'm probably going to give it a try someday...

Elisabeth said...

I have been next in line at the library for this audio forever.......

Tasha Brandstatter said...

Ummm no.

Anita said...

I think I'm like you, interested in reading like we are interested in looking at a horrible accident when we drive pass, with one eye closed. Is this the family that have now moved to two separate apartments? I think I saw on a TV news show. In this case truth is stranger than fiction.

Meg @ write meg! said...

I remember reading about Janni a few months back and, while fascinating, I didn't think I could stomach this story. Your reaction is similar to others I've read, and still other reviewers/folks online have gone so far as to accuse Janni's parents of fabricating her illness and/or exploiting her. Yikes!

Julie P. said...

Agree -- I found this book to be incredibly disturbing for a number of reasons.

Melissa said...

I saw this on LT a couple of months ago and think it might be hard to read, but still interesting in a train wreck sort of way.

stacybuckeye said...

I remember Kathy's review. There's no way I could read this. I don't want to judge the parents and I know I wouldn't be able to help myself!

Jenners said...

I don't think I could buy this and support what seems like exploitation of a sick child.