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Publisher's Summary

Professor of psychiatry Elyn R. Saks writes about her struggle with schizophrenia in this unflinching account of her mental illness. In The Center Cannot Hold, Saks draws readers into a nightmare world of medications, a misguided health-care system, and social stigmas. But she would not be defeated. With a strength and force of will that most can only imagine, Saks reclaimed her life and went on to achieve great success.
©2007 Elyn R. Saks; (P)2007 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"In this engrossing memoir, Saks...demonstrates a novelist's skill of creating character, dialogue, and suspense." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall

Schizophrenia Inside Out

This amazing memoir is an insider's fly-on-the-wall look at what it means to suffer from an alienating and incurable, progressive mental illness. Granted, the protagonist has access to plenty of resources, and thus is a very high-functioning individual with plenty of status and privilege. Not many schizophrenics are as lucky. Still, she somehow remains on her feet, white-knuckling it throughout all her breakdowns and especially through the wall of denial that so often accompanies this disease.

The book makes a highly cogent case for seeking and maintaining medication as well as talk therapy in order to carry on a productive independent life.

I read this book twice!

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A Memoir of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenics are supposed to live in a world of their own, unable to function in society or to be understood. Not only does the author overcome her handicap and become a successful law professor, she reveals the inner workings of her mind and the demons that haunted her. Most likely this memoir was only made possible by reason of the enhanced drugs now used to control this horrible malady. In any event, I found the book fascinating from beginning to end.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Center Cannot Hold

As a mental health professional, I really appreciate the authors depth of knowledge and ability to communicate insights beyond the research and clinical references.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Pauline
  • Edmonton, AB, Canada
  • 10-21-11

Strength, courage & hope

The author is a brilliant scholar who has schizophrenia. This account of her life gives an appreciation of how difficult it is to live with this illness, yet also an understanding that it is a mistake to underestimate what a person with this illness might accomplish. Also, I was left thinking that doctors do not always know what is best. Or even moderately good. I was unaware of the huge differences in the treatment of the mentally ill between Britain and the United States. The use of force and involuntary treatment are much more common in the US. Thank you Elyn for fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves, and for sharing your story with us!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Incredible

One of the best books I've read on mental illness. This woman is remarkable and has preformed a great service by articulating so well what happens internally, as well as how horribly our hospitals do in helping people.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Informative

I felt the narrative rambled in places, but on the whole, the book provides helpful insight into the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic. I recommend it for anyone who lives or works with a schizophrenic.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Enlightening, touching, personal.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I decided to explore this book after hearing Elyn Saks' TED talk. If you're curious about some of the content of this book, I recommend looking it up. She is a fascinating woman; fiercely intelligent, strong, and resilient. This book provides a small glimpse into the life of one person working through mental illness. She has no qualms about wishing she didn't have schizophrenia in her life, but still shows how she met the challenge it presented her.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

The narrator was fine, but there were quite a few editing issues that affected the quality of narration. Abrupt cutting together of paragraphs, oddly long pauses, and even microphone jostling. It wasn't enough to make it unbearable to listen, but it did challenge me at times. At certain points the narrator would stumble slightly over a sentence and this was not edited or resolved. It could have been done much better, but her general style was tolerable.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

While this book was incredibly interesting, it was often very heavy and dark. When Elyn writes about her times of deep psychosis, I found myself needing to take many breaks. She doesn't hold back on the reality of her illness, which is very appreciated and valuable, but still makes it hard to work straight through this book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Paul
  • HARRISBURG, PA, United States
  • 03-21-09

Fascinating

I found this book to be fascinating and I am so glad she wrote it. This is the memoir of a very bright paranoid schizophrenic who manages to succeed in spite of a devastating illness. Being in the health care field I found it especially educational and I do appreciate the author's insights into her illness. The narrator was perfect for the book-- clear, slow and measured.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Narration was terrible!

I am distracted from the very fine book by the shaky, unsure, weirdly paced narration. I was hoping to wait it out (everybody has a bad day I guess) but it was persistent. Appalling. I have never written a negative review before but this audio download was expensive and was really ruined for me by the narration.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Don't miss out on this one!

Excellent story of Saks' struggle in dealing with schizophrenia while trying to remain in the world, in a real and respected way. This book is an incredibly important tool for helping society understand how our evolving understanding and treatment of the mentally ill affects people who have various issues. Thanks to books like this one and others such as Suspicious Minds by Joel Gold and Ian Gold, the 'us/them" barrier is slowly coming down.

I am extremely happy to have had the experience of peeking into the life of an academic and professional person continued to search for affective ways to manage her issues. I loved to see how each milestone-- degree, job, relationship, etc -- was reached and what obstacles stood in her way. Such a brave narrative. I am thankful for the people in her life who treated her with dignity and understanding. I am thankful she shared her story. I am thankful to have a deeper understanding of what life is like for people who experience schizophrenic symptoms.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful