CW: abuse, sexual assault, mental illness (violent/hallucinatory schizophrenia)
Finally got around to reading this–presumably to no one’s surprise, it’s exactly the type of non-fiction book that would appeal to me. A bit of healthcare, a bit of narrative, tension as to how it’ll all end…catnip.
The star lost is very specific to me–towards the end of the novel, when we catch up to the present day (or days closer to present), we transition into a bit of pharma development work which I found pretty lacking. Now, anything that Kolker wrote about the current state of affairs re: schizophrenia medication development would likely have been out of date by the time the book even hit the presses. But the narrative that he builds throughout forty odd chapters falls pretty flat when it comes to “and then no one did anything with the data because of REASONS.”
I’m of course biased. This is my field (biopharma) and so I’m particularly aware of how dime a dozen “we found a biomarker/gene loci/pathway/protein that controls [disease]” stories are. Seeing as how there’s no truly novel schizophrenia treatment on the market to date, I could have guessed that there wasn’t some miracle cure about to appear towards the end. But the narrative provided–that there was all this magic data and all that’s missing is someone’s courage/willpower/money to find the cure–well, that’s just not true.
At the end of the day, this book isn’t even about the history of schizophrenia treatment, which it purports to be. It’s really a novel in the vein of Educated, about the saga of Lindsey as she struggles with her relationship to the family that failed to protect her. Her story frames the entire book, her name dutifully appearing last on the ever-shrinking list of Galvins that start each chapter, helping the reader understand which of the boys Joe/Jim/John are being featured. Reminded me of Russian novels with their who’s who cheat sheets (e.g. Nikolushka, later Nikolinka, neither name will ever stick in your head).