The Center Cannot Hold

Narrated by: Alma Cuervo
Length: 12 hrs and 10 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (934 ratings)

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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
    5 out of 5 stars

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!

22 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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!

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book! Explains from sufferer's viewpoint.

Where does The Center Cannot Hold rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is by far one of the best audiobook I listened to. It introduces me to concepts I would not have known otherwise. For instance, while psychotic, the sufferer is cogent and understand that people are violent towards him. Psychosis is therefore not a dream like state from which the sufferer awakes with no recall. It is rather a real life experience from the individual sufferer's point of view, and must be approached as such.

What did you like best about this story?

I like that it made me a better person in that I understand what it's like to suffer from this illness. It made me realize that we (the non-sufferers) violate the rights of these vulnerable people among us, by forcibly medicating them against their will, or holding them in restraints when we don't understand them. We so readily are willing to pronounce those we don't understand as dangerous, when in fact, we are the dangerous ones with delusions of what normalcy should look like. My hope is that every one reads/listens to Dr. Saks's personal account and appreciates it for what it offers: the sufferer's perspective. I also like appreciate how articulate Prof. Saks is, and I am certain that she is the best person to have spoken on behalf of people suffering from schizophrenia. These people often lack the language and emotional dimension found in Prof Saks's account. I am grateful to the author for having shared her experience. Thank you Elyn!!

What about Alma Cuervo’s performance did you like?

I like her voice, and her intonations. They were appropriate and moving.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes. It made me cry, and it made me question, and think through preconceived notions of dangerousness, prejudice and stereotypes of the mentally ill. It changed me, and my views on this illness, and the people who suffer from it.

Any additional comments?

Many thanks to Prof. Saks!!! You are a survivor, a champion and a hero in my book!

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

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.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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 people found this helpful