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Book Review: Girl, Interrupted

The memoir Girl, Interrupted is definitely a story for someone who enjoys reading about real people’s difficult and sometimes disturbing lives. It is set in 1967 and is told by a girl named Susanna Kaysen, who did not have the easiest teenage years. At only eighteen years old it was decided by her doctor and parents that McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility, was where she needed to spend some time.

          Shortly into the novel, it is revealed that she was admitted for attempting suicide by overdosing on pills and is later diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder. Though, what was expected to be a short stay turned into two years of many unforgettable events. Each small chapter narrows in on a particular detail of her experience in the hospital with the other patients and at the same time, takes the reader on her journey to recovery. For example, in chapter six Kaysen has a visitor at the hospital. She doesn’t know who it is, but describes numerous possibilities of who it could be. When she finally meets with this person, he wants to help her escape because he doesn’t think the hospital is a healthy place for her. Though, she rejects which shows her drive to get better in the hospital so she can leave on her own one day. As soon as she arrives, she begins reflecting on everyone and everything that she meets and sees. This is very important because without the thorough descriptions of what was going on, her story would not be nearly as intriguing. During her time at the hospital, she makes numerous friends with whom she spends most of her time. Kaysen deeply describes what they are in for and their strange actions, for example, two patients, both named Lisa, diagnosed as being sociopaths, compete to be more sociopathic. This leads to one of the Lisas removing all of the lightbulbs in the entire hospital. She also notes the people that she stays away from due to the severity of their illnesses. Strangely, when something bad happens to another patient, friend or not, it does not seem to phase her whatsoever. She shows little emotion to the sometimes traumatizing events including suicides and escapes from the hospital that result in forceful returns. For example, the first Lisa that was introduced in the memoir is someone who constantly escapes from the hospital and helps others escape as well. She is always caught and is brought back to the hospital very angry,  cursing at the nurses. Kaysen describes this events and events like these in a very flat tone where the reader is not able to tell her opinion on the subject matter. This can be unsettling for readers, as it was for me, because it proves that her diagnosis of borderline personality is accurate and she really did belong at the hospital.

             This memoir is a very clear description of what life was like in a psychiatric ward during the sixties. The amount of detail made me feel like I was right there with Kaysen in the hospital going through everything that she endured. Overall, I believe that this memoir is definitely worth anyone’s time because of how much Kaysen described the unique and fascinating things that she witnessed.