Gorilla and the Bird

Gorilla and the Bird

A Memoir of Madness and A Mother's Love

Book - 2017 | First edition.
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"Glorious...one of the best memoirs I've read in years...a tragicomic gem about family, class, race, justice, and the spectacular weirdness of Wichita. [McDermott] can move from barely controlled hilarity to the brink of rage to aching tenderness in a single breath." -- Marya Hornbacher, New York Times Book Review

Zack McDermott, a 26-year-old Brooklyn public defender, woke up one morning convinced he was being filmed, Truman Show-style, as part of an audition for a TV pilot. Every passerby was an actor; every car would magically stop for him; everything he saw was a cue from "The Producer" to help inspire the performance of a lifetime. After a manic spree around Manhattan, Zack, who is bipolar, was arrested on a subway platform and admitted to Bellevue Hospital.

So begins the story of Zack's freefall into psychosis and his desperate, poignant, often hilarious struggle to claw his way back to sanity. It's a journey that will take him from New York City back to his Kansas roots and to the one person who might be able to save him, his tough, big-hearted Midwestern mother, nicknamed the Bird, whose fierce and steadfast love is the light in Zack's dark world.

Before his odyssey is over, Zack will be tackled by guards in mental wards, run naked through cornfields, receive secret messages from the TV, befriend a former Navy Seal and his talking stuffed monkey, and see the Virgin Mary in the whorls of his own back hair. But with the Bird's help, he just might have a shot at pulling through, starting over, and maybe even meeting a partner who can love him back, bipolar and all.

Introducing an electrifying new voice, Gorilla and the Bird is a raw and unforgettable account of a young man's unraveling and the relationship that saves him.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2017.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780316315142
Branch Call Number: 616.8950092 McDer
Characteristics: 278 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Dec 01, 2019

"Gorilla and the Bird" is pitched as a mother-and-son memoir about learning to live with bipolar disorder, and centered around a mother's undying, unconditional love from her son. I was surprised when - delving further into the story - the mother/son relationship didn't strike me as the main message of this memoir. "Gorilla and the Bird" is trifold; it illustrates the inadequacy of the institutions tasked with treating mental illness and a mother's determination to find adequate care for her son, the intersections of our broken justice system with substance abuse and mental health, and the systemic issues of inequality and poverty at the root of our failures to provide mental healthcare. These insights are blended with dry humor and family anecdotes from Wichita, Kansas, which were often too derisive for my taste, but the work overall is a detailed portrait of mental illness from the vantage point of someone dealing with its impacts personally and professionally.

STPL_JessKovs Oct 02, 2019

This may be specific to those battling depression but it’s also beautiful and contains a lot of content anyone would find useful.

JCLHeatherC Jun 25, 2019

A heartbreaking and oftentimes simultaneously hilarious memoir about mental illness, mental health, and the love of a mother who wouldn't give up.

Jun 17, 2018

A fantastic, engaging and funny memoir!

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