A memoir about the tight bond between a father and his mentally ill son.
Until his son’s late teens, Russell (The Life and Ideas of James Hillman: Volume I: The Making of a Psychologist, 2013, etc.) had enjoyed his relationship with Franklin, a smart, handsome, mixed-race child who was a “dreamer” and a perfectionist but showed no traits considered out of the ordinary. At 17, however, Franklin experienced his first mental breakdown. He was hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia; suddenly, Russell didn’t know how to connect with his son. With honesty and grace, the author writes of the maelstrom of feelings that surged in and around him and his son for the next 15 years as Franklin moved in and out of group homes and the hospital as his illness progressed. Some days Franklin was kind and loving, and at other times, he denied Russell was his father, lashing out with rage and frustration. When an unexpected opportunity arose to take Franklin to Africa, where the author had traveled as a young adult, father and son embarked on the trip with both anticipation and trepidation. Although Franklin’s schizophrenia manifested occasionally, the two-week trip led Russell to believe that his son’s disability might actually be evidence of something more profound, a deep connection with the spirit world. Searching for more answers, Russell and Franklin underwent numerous healings with a West African shaman and a Peruvian healer, who both confirmed Russell’s idea that Franklin was not afflicted with an illness but was undergoing vastly different life events than those around him. The author’s candid account of these difficult years shows his deep commitment and love toward his son and offers readers a new concept on how people with mental illnesses should be perceived.
Not all readers will be convinced, but Russell provides an earnest and eye-opening account of the possible thin line between a psychotic disorder and mysticism.