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Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia Hardcover – July 28, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (July 28, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312320647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312320645
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This harrowing but arresting memoir—written in alternating voices by identical twins, now in their 50s—reveals how devastating schizophrenia is to both the victim and those who love her. The condition, which afflicts Pamela (an award-winning poet), can be controlled with drugs and psychiatry, but never cured. When the twins were young, Pamela always outshone Carolyn. But in junior high, Pamela was beset by fears and began a lifelong pattern of cutting and burning herself. After the two entered Brown University, Pamela's decline into paranoia accelerated until she attempted suicide. During the ensuing years of Pamela's frequent breakdowns and hospitalizations, Carolyn became a psychiatrist, married and had two children. Empathetic and concerned, Carolyn nonetheless conveys her overwhelming frustration. and occasional alienation from her sister, when she is unable to help. Pamela's schizophrenia caused their father to sever his relationship with her. Remarkably descriptive, Pamela's account details how it feels to hear voices and to suspect evil in everyone. Though she struggles with her medications, Pamela remains a committed poet and is now reconciled with her father and close to her twin. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

For many, the idea of being one of identical twins--and possibly the possessor of telepathic communicative powers--sends chills up the spine. Add certifiable schizophrenia to the potent emotional state of identical twinship, and the potential for nightmare magnifies. In their disturbingly powerful memoir, however, the Spiro sisters reveal all this as the stuff of their everyday reality. Explosive encounters with one another, other family members, friends, and medical professionals are recounted with jarring straightforwardness. Alternating recollections about being half of a pair of youngsters growing up in the 1960s highlight the sisters' individual personalities while they relate sisterly connections, competitiveness, and co-option. When Pamela's illness emerged at the beginning of adolescence and subsequently spiraled out of her control, it became a virtual separate entity that taxed the limits of the sisters' relationship and continues to test their endurance. This memoir probably afforded its authors great therapeutic value, but readers struggling with schizophrenic family members may find it too graphic. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

This book is written extremely well.
Sky F
In their intimate memoir, Pamela Spiro Wagner and her identical twin, Carolyn S. Spiro, share the story of their ongoing struggle with Pam's disease.
Joan S. Sidney
I highly recommend it to anyone who has been touched by mental illness.
Birgitta Gustafson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By yeti on January 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
August 23, 2005 [...] The Nation's Voice on Mental Illness

Traditionally, twin studies have been important statistically for understanding genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, but a new book, authored by twins, provides a unique exposition of the illness.

Divided Minds: Twins Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia is a memoir by Pamela Spiro Wagner, now in her 50s, who began hearing voices in 6th grade. Her chapters alternate with ones by her sister, Carolyn Spiro, M.D., a psychiatrist, who even with her medical training, did not recognize her sister's illness for years. Neither did their father, a professor at Yale Medical School.

They also are scheduled to speak at NAMI state conferences in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania in October, as well as to NAMI Westchester County, N.Y.

This is not the first time Pamela has shared her perspective as a person living with mental illness. As part of Mental Illness Awareness Week in 1993, NAMI Connecticut and others honored her with a media award for an article she published in the local newspaper, entitled "Mentally Ill People Deserve Equal Health Insurance Coverage." It also was carried on the newspaper's national wire service.

"NAMI is probably the most active and helpful group around and the award I won...remains one of my proudest moments," Pamela says. "I had barely heard of NAMI before that time, but I knew then I'd have to find out more. What I learned was that NAMI has single-handedly worked to curb stigma and fear of psychiatric patients, and to treat families and friends as allies in the struggle."

"A few decades ago biological brain diseases like depression, bipolar disorder, OCD and schizophrenia were still taboo subjects," Carolyn adds.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Amara TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I feel like I know much more about schizophrenia after reading this book, mainly from the parts of the book written by the twin sister who has that diagnosis, Pamela Spiro Wagner. She is an amazing writer, and is able to bring the reader into her often hellish world. She sounds like a brilliant person, and it is so sad that the disease has robbed her of so much, but astonishing all she has still been able to do.

The book doesn't quite do as well for me in showing how being a twin affect either sister. I don't think Carolyn is ready to reveal much about her life, which I can understand, and for many parts of their lives they were very seperate. Their lives did take very different paths, but I don't feel like I know much at all about Carolyn's path, or perhaps she is just not as compelling an author as her sister. It's not her field, after all, as it is Pamela's.

I also wish there was a little more perspective and information on schizophrenia in general here, and more about how it specifically affected this family. It sounded like Pamela started being affected quite young---I had always thought it usually hit more like college age, but she seems to start showing signs around 6th grade. It seems hard to believe it took so long for her to be diagnosed, also, and I wish I knew more about why this took so long---was hers a unique case with unusual features?

With all that said, I still do highly recommend this book. I know I feel I understand much more about the plight of the mentally ill in our society after my reading of this fine book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Barbarino on February 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
How fascinating...identical twins; one with schizophrenia and the other a psychiatrist, how unusual. This is a memoir written by Carolyn and Pamela Spiro. Each describes what is was like to deal with Pamela's mental illness throughout their lives.

I expected amazing insights into how this horrible mental illness shaped both sister's lives but I finished this memoir feeling like there was so much left unsaid that I never got a clear image of what was going on in the Spiro family.

I felt like Carolyn and Pamela's honesty about their feelings toward each other was just beginning to emerge at the end of the book and then the book was finished.

I would have liked to have heard more about how the other family members dealt with their feelings toward Pamela's illness and how that effected Pamela. The rest of the family, their parents and two siblings, one who also becomes a psychiatrist, seemed to be almost completely left out of the book, which seemed awkward and strange to me. Their father barely speaks to Pamela for years and not much is said about it beyond that fact.

I was deeply saddened to follow the constant crisis of Pamela's existence, it was/is just horror after horror. The illness itself, the lack of consistent health care providers, the harsh and sometimes cruel treatment received from hospital staff, the side effects of the medications... It was all very sad.

Overall I felt like there was more left untold than told in this memoir and because of that it was not a satisfying reading experience for me.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jill S. Iskiyan on January 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book was fascinating. This illness has always interested me- to know learn about it. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in psychology, schizophrenia, of course, and/or twins. It was a page turner!

BTW, here is Pam's blog if anyone who has read it wants updates. She seems to post pretty regularly.

[...]
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