Note – I received a copy of this book from the publisher through TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
About My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper Wave (May 2, 2017)
A heart-wrenching, yet hopeful, memoir of a young marriage that is redefined by mental illness and affirms the power of love.
Mark and Giulia’s life together began as a storybook romance. They fell in love at eighteen, married at twenty-four, and were living their dream life in San Francisco. When Giulia was twenty-seven, she suffered a terrifying and unexpected psychotic break that landed her in the psych ward for nearly a month. One day she was vibrant and well-adjusted; the next she was delusional and suicidal, convinced that her loved ones were not safe.
Eventually, Giulia fully recovered, and the couple had a son. But, soon after Jonas was born, Giulia had another breakdown, and then a third a few years after that. Pushed to the edge of the abyss, everything the couple had once taken for granted was upended.
A story of the fragility of the mind, and the tenacity of the human spirit, My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward is, above all, a love story that raises profound questions: How do we care for the people we love? What and who do we live for? Breathtaking in its candor, radiant with compassion, and written with dazzling lyricism, Lukach’s is an intensely personal odyssey through the harrowing years of his wife’s mental illness, anchored by an abiding devotion to family that will affirm readers’ faith in the power of love.
A year or two ago I read an article written by Lukach about his family’s experience and I saw he was writing a memoir. I knew I wanted to read it, but forgot about it until I saw the book listed in an email about upcoming tours. The title caught my eye and when I read the synopsis I remembered the family I had read about and immediately signed up for the tour.
I don’t think this will be a refined book review, because I don’t even know where to start other than to say I appreciated this book… appreciated in a very, very good way, but I can’t say I enjoyed this book because it’s a hard book to read.
1 // I appreciated this look at mental illness from the eyes of the caregiver. I’m not well-versed in books about mental illness, but what I have read has always been written by the person who has the mental illness. But family members are affected by mental illness as well and I appreciated that Lukach was willing to share his experience (and that Giulia was also willing to let this story be told) in great detail as he talked about how Giulia’s sudden psychotic break. I appreciated that he didn’t shy away from sharing what he felt–from his deep love and fear, to his anger and resentment. He has dealt with so many emotions throughout this–which is normal–and I appreciated that he was willing to share them.
2 // I appreciated their representation of love, marriage and commitment. It starts out as this fairy tale romance of a beautiful, young and ambitious couple that embark on their life together. And then they’re hit, unexpectedly, by a big storm. But their story illustrates what it means to make a commitment to each other and to consciously choose to keep that commitment. Marriage isn’t easy — love isn’t all sunshine and roses. This book illustrates that love and marriage is a choice and it’s a choice that can continue to be made, even when it’s hard.
3 // Lukach doesn’t give any answers. He shares their experience and through that the reader can learn — with them — how they needed to deal with something they never anticipated would be part of their life. It could be beneficial for others who are in a similar situation, but he never says “this is how it should be for everyone.”
Mental illness is something that can be hard to talk about–and I totally get that. But it’s also something that needs to be discussed. I think it’s important to share experiences so that we can break down barriers, learn from each other and just know that we’re not alone.
About Mark Lukach
Mark Lukach is a teacher and freelance writer. His work has been published in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Pacific Standard, Wired, and other publications. He is currently the ninth-grade dean at the Athenian School, where he also teaches history. He lives with his wife, Giulia, and their son, Jonas, in the San Francisco Bay Area.