A daughter breaks the family silence about her mother’s schizophrenia, reframing hospitalizations, paranoia, illness, and caregiving through a feminist lens.
Claire Phillips’ elegantly written and unflinching memoir about her mother, an Oxford-trained lawyer diagnosed in mid-life with paranoid schizophrenia, challenges current conceptions about mental illness, relapse and recovery, as well as difficulties caring for an aging parent with a chronic disease. Told in fragments, the work also becomes a startling reflection on the evolution of feminism as seen through mother-daughter relationships.
Only with her mother’s final relapse at age 73 did the author begin to tell this story, first in Black Clock magazine, an essay for which she received a Pushcart nomination and notable mention in The Best American Essays 2015.
As heroic as it is original, Claire Phillips’ writing always finds the scary corners that would be secret to any other author, from which inevitably there comes into vision a revelatory perspective. Reading A Room With a Darker View, you won’t shake it from your mind; finishing it, you won’t shake it from your memory.
—Steve Erickson, author of Shadowbahn and Zeroville
Short, distilled chapters of quietly tantalizing prose grip us throughout the span of Claire Phillips’ fully realized and haunting story of her mother, an Oxford-trained lawyer with a mental illness difficult to treat and to diagnose.
—Bruce Baumann, author of And the Word Was and Broken Sleep
An engrossing story of identity formation, Phillips ultimately gives us not a confessional memoir but a parable of agency and resilience amid uncertain reality. As a speculative fiction writer whose work is rooted in an encyclopedic knowledge of science fiction, she crafts a tale of time travel, one where past-present-futures collapse into braided familial, personal, and social histories. Throughout the book Phillips illuminates the fierce reality of her mother's delusions as well as the tools she gives her daughter to survive her.
An inventively told and wholly original memoir.
—David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy
A moving portrait of her mother and their relationship, A Room with a Darker View is a book that people who are going through something similar need to read. Mental illness is a story, like everyone’s life is a story.... Many people don’t want to talk about death or illness, they want to talk about the heroics. But I think some of the heroics are just telling these stories. In this book, Phillips’ mother has a full life.
– Emily Rapp Black, author of The Still Point of a Turning World
‘A Room with a Darker View’ openly confronts the subject of mental illness in such a way that the book stands out brightly alongside novels such as Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’ and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. [...] The book is incredibly informative and to the point regarding its subject matter but still remains a beautiful and tragic examination of a woman gradually losing her mother. Claire Phillips generously invites her readers into her world and shares her experience without any hesitation.
—Amelia Kennedy, Write or Die Tribe
Through research into her mother’s schizophrenia, and vignettes depicting the hoops of the American health-care system their family had to jump through in order to treat it, Phillips illustrates that, as a society, we still have a long way to go in order to better understand and help those with mental illnesses, and to assist their families in getting their loved ones the critical care they need.
—Los Angeles Review of Books
- Pushcart Prize