- Paperback: 332 pages
- Publisher: Linda Appleman Shapiro (November 26, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1583852271
- ISBN-13: 978-1583852279
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,674,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Four Rooms, Upstairs: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness
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Top Customer Reviews
For her amazing recall of and deep penetration into her past, FOUR ROOMS reminds me of Proust's REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST. For its complete ease of readability I think of Betty Smith's A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. This title is engrossing, engaging and utterly delightful. At times painful, at times heart-warming, there is something for everyone here.
Finally, there is a therapeutic effect to this remarkable book, at least for me. After reading FOUR ROOMS not only was I treated to a wonderful read, I also felt that I had gained the courage to examine my own childhood, a locked door that I had heretofore never dared peer into.
Her mother's sunny spells were marked by such great gentleness and compassion that the periodic descents into mental illness were all the more astounding in comparison. When the demons of her past in war-torn Russia overtook Mariasha Appleman, she fell into a relentless vortex, reliving past horrors as if they were occurring again.
Mariasha's mental illness was a secret, not only from the outside world, but from her daughter Linda as well. Her father would leave for work, explaining that Mother was not herself, and little Linda was left at home with a heavy caretaking responsibility before she even entered school. If Mother was not herself, then who was she?
In time, school became Linda's refuge of normalcy, an escape from the chaos and uncertainty at home. But always in the background were a distant father, an absent brother and an obligation to deal with unspoken, unexplained secrets. Even after Mariasha's suicide attempt and subsequent extended hospitalization, nobody talked about it. Mental illness, by then, was a presence so strong that it seemed like another member of the family.
Four Rooms, Upstairs is a riveting tale wrapped in elegant prose. Those who have dealt with mental illness or experienced its ravages for themselves will likely see a reflection of their own experiences within the account of Shapiro's life. The past is always with us, our roots responsible for our ability to survive and bloom. This is a very human story, one of hope and perseverance that resonates deeply within the soul.
Shapiro was born at the beginning of World War II, at a time when cities like New York were teeming with eastern European immigrants, struggling to survive in a strange, alien land. At the outset, Shapiro beautifully describes the unique charm of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn in the 40s - the sounds, smells, shops, bustling street life and.. poor families squeezed together in four rooms or less!
With this colorful setting as a backdrop, we are drawn into an unspoken facet of life in many displaced immigrant families of that era - dysfunction.
As Shapiro points out, family dysfunction was not discussed, acknowledged or even understood (in any culture). The cover of the happy, harmonious family unit, the good child -- the smiling, compliant daughter, masked so much anguish, fear and confusion. Shapiro`s story of her mother`s mental illness and it`s effects on her is especially devastating, given such extreme fluctuations in behavior. Present, emotionally available and then so absent, depressed and isolated, disappearing for `treatments` and hospitalized for suicide attempts. What can be more terrifying for a child than to know that something is horribly wrong with mommy and yet continue to be confused by the pretense of normalcy?
An experienced psychotherapist, Shapiro writes with such extraordinary insight and honesty. She shares with us her journey of many years -- from infinite pain to knowledge, healing and forgiveness without a trace of melodrama. . A truly inspiring read and a marvelous legacy for Shapiro`s children, grandchildren and beyond.
Even more important than that, 'Four Rooms, Upstairs' gives the reader insights and invaluable tools for coping with everyday life, things that many people are lacking.
And I am thrilled to hear that 'Four Rooms, Upstairs' is now available in a library in Ontario. Personally, I think it should be in every library in North America and every student over the age of ten should be forced to read it. Many times. And teenagers need to read it more than that!
Pam Goldstein RN.
author of 'One Step at a Time'
and 'Lion of Righteousness'