Review by Jessica Pons, ISPS UK member
Her family cast Uncle Bob as a drug abusing, ‘crazy’ misfit. After reading his life story (after he hounds her to try and get it published), Sandra questions this stereotype she’s learnt to accept and begins a journey of getting to know her uncle for herself.
Through reading his diaries and talking to him about his memories, it becomes apparent his stories are not the ‘delusions’ they initially appeared. At times Bob questions the validity of his diagnosis. I particularly like the way he talks about his medication: sometimes he wants to take it, whereas other times he’s not keen. Sandra allows Bob’s story to flow without neatly fitting into one model of thought around what it means to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Sandra shows a burgeoning critical mental health gaze. She begins to see past the lens of his diagnosis and through putting together his story, her beliefs regarding schizophrenia are challenged. She becomes more comfortable with having more questions than answers, more grey than black and white. This uncertainty is representative, I think, of where we’re up to when thinking about sensory experiences and strong beliefs.
A book that shows the vagaries of time and truth, I think Sandra Allen does her Uncle Bob justice in this version of his autobiography. Sandra tries to stay as close as possible to her uncle’s narrative. I think she gets the balance right between allowing the book to tie together, and allowing her uncle’s creativity and voice to come through.