Eloquent, even playful (but never incongruous), The Miradors is veteran nurse and recovering depressive B. Elwin Sherman's autobiographical account of his searing struggle to heal after a breakdown culminating in a suicidal "gesture" lands him voluntarily in the psychiatric ward of a small rural general hospital. This is a bracing, intimate glimpse into the dangerous
and miraculous folds of the human mind at the pinnacle of creativity and nadir of function.
After twenty years of seeing the demons of depression from the caregiver's side of
the divide, a long-building dysfunction in his own psyche blindsides Sherman, driving him to an aborted suicide attempt. Suddenly he is on the inside looking out, evaluating the care system he has been a part of for so long from a decidedly different vantage and seeing something made more frightening by its familiarity in the faces of the tortured souls in need of succor around him.
Sherman's road to healing is paved with psychopharmaceuticals and therapy, word games and smoke breaks, startling insights and stubborn, persistent resistance. With a prankish,
loving command of language not seen since Jonathan Safran Foer's towering Everything is Illuminated, Sherman's
visceral glimpse into the retooling of his own slipping cogs is pure observational poetry. This is depression's consuming black hole magnified to visibility by an interior Hubble, its insidious cancerous gnawing from the inside out
made darkness visible on an X-ray film.
The author's brilliant manipulation of language - both as a tool of obfuscation and illumination
- and his obvious ultra-literacy would be daunting to many except for his adroitness in gathering the reader into his own mind with clarifying quotes from such "miradors" as Kurt Vonnegut, Shel Silverstein, Sylvia Plath, and William Carlos Williams - and with a gentle, often self-deprecating humor that makes the horrors of severe clinical depression somehow accessible. This is a crowning achievement not only as a memoir of madness and slow recovery, but as a work of literature not to be missed by those who have clinical depression and the families and caregivers of such struggling sufferers, and certainly not to be missed by readers who treasure the infinite potential of language to turn words, fragments, sentences
into an open window over the sprawling vista of the human condition.