Nonfiction: Diving Into Hell: A Powerful Memoir of Depression

Merkin’s parents were prosperous Orthodox Jews who, in her telling at least, were cold and unloving, but who seem nonetheless to have provoked in her a passionate and consuming attachment. Her mother fulfills all the clichés about Jewish mothers except the one about unbridled self-sacrifice. She is domineering, intellectually inclined, critical, with a viselike grip, and so woven into the fabric of her children’s lives that they cannot have any experience that is not somehow of her. She appears empathetic enough to grasp what her children are feeling, but not very kind in the application of that knowledge. As a child, Merkin could achieve her mother’s full attention only when she was sick, and she ponders whether her yearning for maternal affection might have been an engine of her later breakdowns. When Merkin gets married, she feels she has betrayed the sacred…

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