Book: Altered Life by Pearlie Woodcategories: Book, Mental Illness, Schizophrenia, Family Relationships, Society, Stigma, Ignorance, Alternate Living, Psychological Novel
Pearlie Woodabout this book: Can a novel successfully tell the story of a bright, popular, eighteen year old girl who is suddenly diagnosed with schizophrenia in a way that allows the reader to gain sympathetic insight and understanding of this illness? In this fascinating psychological novel, we learn about schizophrenia from the perspective of Abigail McKenzie, a perfectly normal high school student in a Chicago suburb who unexpectedly finds herself afflicted with this condition that has severe social stigma, and for which there is no cure.
Abby is completely devastated, and does not know how or why she is now sick. Her father Charles McKenzie searches unsuccessfully for answers, and refuses to allow her to do even routine household chores, fearful that his daughter's mental illness will be aggravated by such responsibilities. As a result, Abigail becomes surly, unmanageable, and resentful of her illness.
For the next eleven years, as she struggles with her mental illness, she lives alone with her mother Claudia, while her father is frequently out of town, traveling as a buyer for a Chicago clothing company. When her mother succumbs to a stroke and a maid is hired to look after Abigail, things begin to spin out of control. Abigail begins hearing voices again, attempts to strangle the maid, and is sent back to the hospital.
Desperate now that both his wife and daughter are ill, Charles quickly realizes that he will have to do more than just be the family's breadwinner. With the help of a dedicated social worker who empathizes with his situation, he decides to place Abigail in a boarding home.
There Abigail meets persons like herself, from all walks of life, who struggle with mental illness. The home's administrator and a newly-opened social club for mentally ill people challenge Abigail to confront her schizophrenia. She must now decide whether to continue living an altered life, or attempt to reach past her condition to the life she had once dreamed about.
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