Finding Alice Book Review

An interesting book that I’ve read lately is Finding  Alice by Melody Carloson.

Alice is a college student who grew up in a very fundamentalist Christian family. She goes off to college and at first is so happy to be on her own and even  with a boyfriend. However, by the end of her first semester her boyfriend  breaks up with her. After this, she slowly starts to slip out of reality. She believes  that her neighbors want to poison her with food they bring, and other paranoid things. She also meets an “imaginary friend”  Amelia, who  sometimes can be supportive and comforting and other times verbally abuses Alice along with a growing chorus of voices that come to inhabit her head.

Eventually her mother hears about this and takes her home,  to be “treated” by  their  conservative  church,  where the pastor and others are convinced that her  illness is “the work of a devel” that needs to be removed from Alice  through prayer. This, as one might imagine, doesn’t really work  very well and makes Alice feel worse.

Eventually   her  symptoms become too  much for her mother and church to manage and she is brought to a very traditionally minded  psychiatric  hospital. There the only treatment seems to be high doses of antipsychotics,all the control for care being in the doctor’s hands, and the use of restraints and  isolation. Very little information is given to Alice about what it is the doctors are treating her with, for example, why she needs to have blood drawn so much, and this understandably makes her even more paranoid. I think if I went to that hospital I’d be paranoid too, and I don’t even have schizophrenia.

So as you can imagine Alice escapes the first chance she gets. And then starts an undetermined length of time for her on the streets, where she runs into all sorts of  characters. Eventually she finds a stray and ill cat, which she names Chishire (like in the book Alice and Wonderland) and is lead to Faye, the “cat lady.” Faye takes both the cat and Alice in, and here starts Alice’s turn towards recovery. In the book, the character I like the best is probably Faye. She’s such a loving older lady, who truly accepts Alice for who she is, and doesn’t judge her for her illness. Alice soon meets  Faye’s nephew Simon, who just so happens to work at  the Goldin Home, a very progressive treatment center for people with mental health issues. Here the model is the exact opposite of the psychiatric hospital. Medication is given but at a reasonable  dose, and is by no means the only form of  treatment.  A  variety of  therapies and activities are encouraged, and treatment is very holistic.  Alice spends a little over a year there, and slowly recovers with the right support.

I highly recommend this book. It  has many referen


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