Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood (Paperback)

A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood

By Adrienne Martini

Free Press, 9780743272766, 240pp.

Publication Date: August 1, 2008



"My family has a grand tradition. After a woman gives birth, she goes mad. I thought that I would be the one to escape."

So begins Adrienne Martini's candid, compelling, and darkly humorous history of her family's and her own experiences with depression and postpartum syndrome.

Illuminating depression from the inside, Martini delves unflinchingly into her own breakdown and institutionalization and traces the multigenerational course of this devastating problem. Moving back and forth between characters and situations, she vividly portrays the isolation -- geographical and metaphorical -- of the Appalachia of her forebears and the Western Pennsylvania region where she grew up. She also weaves in the stories of other women, both contemporary and historic, who have dealt with postpartum depression in all its guises, from fleeting "baby blues" to full-blown psychosis.

Serious as her subject is, Martini's narrative is unfailingly engaging and filled with witty, wry observations on the complications of new motherhood: "It's like getting the best Christmas gift ever, but Santa decided to kick the crap out of you before you unwrapped it." New mothers and those who have struggled with parenthood -- whether or not they dealt with depression -- will find affirmation in this story of triumph, of escape from a difficult legacy, of hope for others, and of the courage to have another baby.

Praise For Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood

"Adrienne Martini's writing slices like a paper cut, sharp and quick. Her story reminds us that life stings, and that we, all of us, can heal."

-- Allison Glock, author of Beauty Before Comfort

"A smart, riveting, alternately sad and amusing account of postpartum depression and psychosis...A Girl, Interrupted for the new-mother set."

-- Cathi Hanauer, author of My Sister's Bones and The Bitch in the House

"Adrienne Martini has had a tough time as both a daughter and a mother, yet she brings back from the wretched edge of the maternal endeavor a book of liveliness and companionability, full of the wit and the will and even the anger that got her through the experience. This post-hillbilly madwoman knows how it is. She slips around your defenses and whispers her jokes and stories in your ear until you can't help but feel less isolated. I found her very good company."

-- Marion Winik, author of Above Us Only Sky and The Lunch-Box Chronicles

"With a rare mixture of honesty, humor, and compassion, Adrienne Martini reveals her painful family legacy of mental illness. Her own encounter with postpartum depression, which she explores fearlessly, is at once harrowing and hopeful. An inspiration to all who are touched by this most complex human condition."

-- Henry Emmons, MD, author of The Chemistry of Joy: A Three-Step Program for Overcoming Depression Through Western Science and Eastern Wisdom

"Hillbilly Gothic captures the fascinating contradictions of the women of modern Appalachia. Adrienne clearly illuminates the pain and shame suffered by those with closeted mental illness, while retaining respect for the several generations of brave mothers and daughters in her family who lived through it. This book is beautifully written, thought-provoking, and slyly funny. Highly recommended."

-- Katie Allison Granju, author of Attachment Parenting