Author: Pauline Hansen
Pauline Hansen’s memoir is the riveting account of her husband’s downward spiral into schizophrenia. The story starts in chapter two, and from that point on, it is nigh impossible to stop turning the pages. I made the mistake of setting the book down on the kitchen counter before I’d finished reading it. My husband picked it up, began reading, and didn’t want to let go. Thus began our tug-of-war. As pleased as I was that he wanted to read, I had to insist that he let me finish first. The story is that good. Once you get past the Prologue and first chapter (which could have been combined), the writing turns from report-style writing into showing-style and a fast pace that takes the reader on Pauline Hansen’s harrowing journey.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the story so much is that I had not read any Amazon reviews first, so everything came as a surprise. In fact, I chose not to read the back cover, and I am very glad for that, because when I got to the line in the book that said Pauline had lived with her husband’s odd and disruptive behavior for nine years before seeking medical help, my eyes popped. Nine years! That poor woman! How could she have endured it for so long? How could she have kept her silence? How could she have let him disrupt their home and family life without taking steps earlier?
The answer to that is because of her upbringing and religious teaching. From birth, she was taught that the husband was the head of the home and that the wife’s role was to be a support. Her parents, their parents, and on back through the generations all lived that way. Her church taught her to live that way. She did not have a higher education that taught her to look at life scientifically, to be aware of psychological abnormalities, to question authority, or to assert her own rights as a valuable and equal child of God. Some reviewers have said she should have gone into more detail about this, but I disagree. This is not that story.
This story dispels a common misconception about schizophrenia: it is not “multiple personalities.” Rather, it is when dreams or other fantasies intrude into a person’s real life such that the person cannot tell the difference. So for example, when Curtis dreams that their marriage is being watched by players in a sinister game, he thinks that is reality. When he “receives information” that he and Pauline will come into millions of dollars after winning The Game, for him that is as real as the weather.
I highly recommend this memoir, because it brings better understanding into what schizophrenia is and how it can affect a marriage and family. I extend my highest compliments to Pauline for finally grabbing a lifeline and seeking help for her husband, and for her commitment to keeping their marriage together. This story has a happy ending, and I love how the writer shows that couples can survive mental illness.
I would have liked to see a page of resources for readers who might need more information about paranoid schizophrenia.