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Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood Hardcover – June 27, 2006

12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Martini, a journalist and college professor, summons her blackest comedic chops to rehash her free-fall into postpartum depression—and the newfound understanding of her own upbringing that buoys her back up. Still mired in the oppressive Appalachia that chafed at her in childhood, she checks herself into the Knoxville psychiatric hospital shortly after giving birth, acquiescing to the "hillbilly Gothic patchwork" of suicides and manic-depression that scourge her family history. As her newborn daughter battles jaundice, her mother hovers intrusively as she awaits the mystical ability to breast-feed; Martini ponders her maternal fitness with a panicked despair nimbly rendered with dry humor and candid self-appraisal. Her misery, so jarringly at odds with the "bundle of joy" in her arms, throws open a window on her own mother's severe depression, helping Martini to make peace with her family and its legacies. Unflinching honesty, mordant wit and verbal flair (she comes apart "like a wet tissue" after giving birth) save this memoir from soggy self-pity. In its humor and empathy, it's a nonjudgmental resource for the thousands of mothers battling the "baby blues." (July)
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"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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (June 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743272730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743272735
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,640,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. Thilmany on August 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm a new mother who thankfully did not suffer from postpartum depression. I lapped up Martini's honesty at her birthing experience and at being a new mother. I felt the same way, underwhelmed, terrified of how dramatically my life had changed, and deeply angry at all the Internset sites, books, experts, friends etc. who let you know exaclty what you're doing wrong. Who are so preachy. It was so so heartening for me to read this that I praise Martini for her honesty.

The timeline of this book was kind of a tangle. I didn't follow many parts exactly..okay, wait, wait, has her baby been born yet? Is she still talking about when she was a college kid staying with her father, or are we back to the present. And the parts about the history of postpartum depressiong and how mental illness is treated in American felt very obligatory and tacked on, or patched in.

But the parts about her hospital stay, both for birth and for breakdown, were real and were wrenching. And I cannot overemphasize how freakin' refreshing it is to read a memoir, in this saturated environment, of someone NOT from New York, who doesn't live in New York and who seemingly has no connections in the New York-centered industry and who is resolutely middle class and didn't even go to an Ivy League College. And a memoir not written in workshoppy, sanguine style.

It's really good. I mean, maybe you have to be a woman and maybe you have to be a mother to appreciate this, not sure as I am both. But yeah.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Emily E. Farmer on July 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Not only did I find Martini's book to be touching, thoughtful, incisive and funny, I found it instructive as a woman, as a daughter and as a member of a society that still has a long way to go in its ability to face and deal with mental illness in any of its forms. The personal narrative of the book is skillfully blended with observations on how mental health can be shaped by genetics and environment and how those around us respond to those changes. A fine read, and an important book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By karrie on July 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
will find themselves nodding in recognition as they read lines such as:

"I can be perfect and completely insane or good enough and sane enough."

Adrienne Martini weaves a tale of new motherhood,post-partum depression and family history in a way her readers will find comforting, disturbing, hilarious and heartbreaking. Martini spares little detail in writing about her brush with mental illness, yet she remains likeable and funny throughout the books' darkest passages.
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Format: Hardcover
It is really amazing sometimes how families can deal with an issue like post-partum depression for generations and still not really talk about it or remember it. This is what happened with the author's family, and why her severe PPD, that landed her in a locked psychiatric ward, came as such a shock. Something similar happened in my family with pre-eclampsia (toxemia). Although it had affected many, many family members, and was most likely the cause of death for my greatgrandmother just after giving birth, I had no idea this was the case, and my own near death from it shocked me. Things that happen around childbirth seem to be easily forgotten, perhaps lest it seem like we are somehow blaming the baby.

Martini is a wonderful writer, even if she didn't have such a tale to tell. She manages to find surprising metaphors and striking observations even for situations that have been written about often. I would love to have her as a professor.

Just a note to perspective readers---the hillbilly part of the title misleads a little. The book is much more a memoir about PPD than about hillbilly life. But it's a great title!
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By Jen on January 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
I could understand Martini's experience one hundred percent having gone through my own battle with postpartum depression. Even down to coming from a family where both mental illness and the associated evils run rampant.

Martini's account of her Appalachian background and family's mental illness is not pretty. Her own descent into "madness" actually made me physically hurt for her. That's not to say she sets herself up to be pitied. Far from it. She recognizes that her story is a common one and because there is still a stigma associated with all mental illness, especially postpartum depression and its darker sister postpartum psychosis, it is a necessary story.

I can't say that I recommend this book to everyone - its a tough story to read. But if you do choose to read it I don't think you will be disappointed (and you might even be a little more understanding for having read it).
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Format: Hardcover
The author's experience with postpartum depression, as recounted in Hillbilly Gothic, is an interesting read. Reading about her breakdown, stay at the mental hospital, and subsequent recovery would be helpful for a new mother. Mothers with PPD are stigmatized and made to feel like less of a mother than they really are. Books like this will help break down that stigma.

My only gripes about the book are the parts about Knoxville. She waxes on about living in Tennessee, and I don't think that does much for the book.

That said, I really enjoyed her perspective on pregnancy, childbirth, and being a new mother. Not every mother immediately bonds with her baby. Not every new mother has a perfect birth experience. Many of us feel lost and lonely and confused and angry. This book helps show that new mothers having anything less than the "normal" experience are not alone.
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