Tragedy Plus Time

Narrated by: Adam Cayton-Holland
Length: 5 hrs and 7 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (250 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

“Inspiring, tragic, and at times heart-rendingly funny.” (People

Unsentimental, unexpectedly funny, and incredibly honest, Tragedy Plus Time is a love letter to every family that has ever felt messy, complicated, or (even momentarily) magnificent.

Meet the Magnificent Cayton-Hollands, a trio of brilliant, acerbic teenagers from Denver, Colorado, who were going to change the world. Anna, Adam, and Lydia were taught by their father, a civil rights lawyer, and mother, an investigative journalist, to recognize injustice and have their hearts open to the universe — the good, the bad, the heartbreaking (and, inadvertently, the anxiety-inducing and the obsessive-compulsive disorder-fueling). 

Adam chose to meet life’s tough breaks and cruel realities with stand-up comedy; his older sister, Anna, chose law; while their youngest sister, Lydia, struggled to find her place in the world. Beautiful and whip-smart, Lydia was witty, extremely sensitive, fiercely stubborn, and always somewhat haunted. She and Adam bonded over comedy from a young age, running skits in their basement and obsessing over episodes of The Simpsons

When Adam sunk into a deep depression in college, it was Lydia who was able to reach him and pull him out. But years later as Adam’s career takes off, Lydia’s own depression overtakes her, and, though he tries, Adam can’t return the favor. When she takes her own life, the family is devastated, and Adam throws himself into his stand-up, drinking, and rage. He struggles with disturbing memories of Lydia’s death and turns to EMDR therapy to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder when he realizes there’s a difference between losing and losing it. 

Adam Cayton-Holland is a tremendously talented writer and comedian, uniquely poised to take listeners to the edges of comedy and tragedy, brilliance and madness. Tragedy Plus Time is a revelatory, darkly funny, and poignant tribute to a lost sibling that will have you reaching for the phone to call your brother or sister by the end. 

©2018 Adam Cayton-Holland (P)2018 Simon & Schuster Audio

Editorial Review

A much needed memoir about a family’s love and mental health

It may be taboo to talk about how nice it was to read a book that spoke to my "struggle" growing up as a privileged, suburban white male. But I am who I am and my family, like Adam’s, has dealt with issues of mental health and the heartbreak that comes with it. I laughed and cried often during this listen, and Tragedy + Time does something I have not seen in a while: it turns the severity of discussing mental illness on its head in a beautifully comedic way while still honoring the grief of horrible loss. This is a great listen for anyone who has had to unfortunately watch someone they love suffer, or who has suffered themselves, and it serves as a reminder that family is one of the greatest gifts we all have to overcome tragedy. It is at the very, very top of a short list for my best book of 2018. —Kyle S., Audible Editor

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What listeners say about Tragedy Plus Time

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Powerful.... Just WOW!

I could not stop listening to this book. The powerful truth and feelings are so moving. Having been born and raised in Denver I could really follow the scene created by the author.

6 people found this helpful

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Honest and Heartbreaking; not for the suicidal.

I found this book both good and bad; good for anyone seeking to understand suicide’s impact on families, good for family members or friends of the deceased, bad for those of us who are regularly suicidal. I decided to listen to the book after hearing Adam on Marc Maron’s podcast, and I’m not sure if I’m glad I did or not. I realized pretty quickly upon listening that I had met Lydia once. We went to CC at the same time, overlapping slightly. She worked for the same small student newspaper the year after I had nearly brought the whole publication down with an epically poor decision. And Lydia and I had other things in common: we both had a psychotic breakdown in our twenties; we both empathized with roadkill, loved animals, enjoyed dark humor and morose topics, and embraced suffering a little too much (I’m still alive, and unfortunately still do all of these things); we both floated aimlessly after earning an expensive degree from an exclusive private college. And although Adam does not say so directly for whatever reason, we both suffered with bipolar (Adam’s descriptions of Lydia’s mania and depression seem to fit a bipolar diagnosis very well). The surprise that I had seen this bright and beautiful girl around campus, and the familiar knowing of her psychological torment sent me reeling. What I liked about this book was Adam’s captivating storytelling ability and his earnest retelling of his feelings surrounding Lydia’s life and death. His openness brought me to tears many times. His struggle to metabolize his sister’s death and find its appropriate place in his own life broke my heart. His conclusions in his own process are understandable and evoke incredible empathy. What I didn’t like about this book was that the very same conclusions have the ability to speak some lies to tormented minds. Why should I hang on in this life if I could be as free as a bird, knowing and free, in the next? Why should I hang on if it is destiny that I should fail? Why should I see a psychiatrist if all they can do is toss a bunch of drugs at me and see what works? It creates a problematic runaround for those of us with mental illness. As someone deeply acquainted with psychological torment, emotional anguish, and physical pain, I would like to suggest that, rather than Lydia NEEDING to do it, that she FELT she needed to do it in that moment. Rather than viewing Lydia’s life as the path of a strange and beautiful child ending in a tragically poetic way, the reality may have been that a unique and beautiful woman simply tapped out, a prize fighter forced to fight for hours on end, doped up with sleeping pills. A quick and poor decision by an otherwise often erudite woman. It is also okay to appreciate the bright star this girl was, and still accept that, as I have discovered, finding the right drug combination can allow us to experience more good moments than bad, can quiet--at least a little bit--the manic noisiness banging around in our minds, can allow us to keep relationships without destroying them, can keep us f*cking alive in the end. The main reason that I am writing this review, and the reason I hope the author actually reads it, is that his future children and his sister’s children may encounter mental illness, and his framing of this traumatic event in his life will likely shape the way they come to understand their own mental health. Psychiatrists are mostly useless, but mood stabilizers can be LITERAL lifesavers. ;) We bipolar people are often infuriating and require much patience, but we’re not destined to die by our own hand, even if we are destined to wrestle with the idea forever. Thank you, Adam, for an impactful story I think I’ll always remember. Few writers have the bravery to examine their hearts to such a degree. It was memorable any way you slice it.

4 people found this helpful

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Well written but was left feeling incomplete

Very well written and well performed, but felt myself growing tired of his mourning process chapter after chapter after chapter. Suicide is horrible and devastating ( I know-I’ve been through three of them) and everyone mourns in their own way, but six years and many chapters after her passing I don’t need to still be listening to the ongoing list of her unique attributes like how many Cokes she drank a day and how awesomely she could belch afterwards. I also was hoping for him to show how he used his comedic craft to process the pain. (As the title Tragedy Plus Time led me to believe) I was hoping for a teachable moment to learn how you can cope with tragedy through the art and craft of humor. Maybe it didn’t come out because he himself didn’t process his pain through his work —that is to say by talking directly about it in his comedy routine a la Tig Natoro or Patton Oswald. In the end I felt I got a well written tribute to his sister and a clear picture how many years of deep sadness her suicide caused—and even a bit of acceptance at the very end, but was left feeling like I could have learned so much more.

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Beautifully written

When a person commits suicide, the family often suffers alone. They feel a toxic mix of judgment and anxiety. This book represents the strength and honesty needed to make suicide less taboo.

2 people found this helpful

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A poignant look into the depths of tragedy

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has lost someone in any form. The author digs deep into his own past and shares a story as heartbreaking as it is hopeful. A tearjerker on many levels, yet still able to make you smile with his insight. Don’t hesitate, just buy it

2 people found this helpful

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A fabulous book

Exactly as described. It is touching, funny, somber, and brilliantly written and delivered. Do not miss this.

2 people found this helpful

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truly moving

I binged this whole book in a day. The author's personal account of his experience was touching and relatable.

5 people found this helpful

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Devastating

Adam Clayton-Holland is brilliant! Mental illness, is just that: an illness. It’s not a character flaw as some would conclude. Adam’s poignant account of his grief is raw and real!

1 person found this helpful

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wow

very touching and real. it brings back memories. a great listen. thank you Adam CH

1 person found this helpful

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So worth your listening time

Incredibly moving, heartfelt and yes amusing tribute to what sounds like an amazing woman and family. This reader thanks you, Adam Cayton Holland, for what must have been at times a heart wrenching process. Here’s hoping it leaves you lighter and more at peace with the path your dear sister chose. Your family does indeed sound Magnificent, and I thank you for sharing them and your story.

1 person found this helpful