Piecing Together a Life Plagued by Madness
By Mary Loudon
Canongate U.S., Hardcover, 9781841957845, 352pp.
Publication Date: July 1, 2007
Recalling Jeanette Walls's A Glass Castle, Relative Stranger is an emotionally honest, gripping memoir of one woman’s attempt to piece together a humane portrait of her dead sister and the struggle of mental illness. After learning that her older sister Catherine, who had vanished long ago, had been inhabiting the identity” of a man called Stevie,” Mary Loudon plunges into a kind of post-mortem investigation to understand who her sister was. Interviewing doctors, nurses, social services representatives, nuns, cafe owners, grocers and ministers, Loudon paints an explicit, clear account of how schizophrenia affected a promising young life while exploring the assumptions people make about mental illness. Relative Stranger stands as an honest and uncompromising challenge to the ways in which we think about one another and what it means to love, to lose, to die and above all to belong.