What happens, wonders Michael Greenberg, when one's vitality grows so powerful that, instead of flourishing, one eats oneself alive? Greenberg believes that this happened to his 15-year-old daughter. In 1996, Sally Greenberg was diagnosed with manic depression and – after a spell of feverish insomniac nights writing sonnets – was hospitalised. Language, once a blessing, became her curse. She could no longer express herself coherently, her linguistic breakdown mirroring her psychological disintegration.
In this candid memoir, Greenberg blends painful experience with philosophies of madness, and also probes the possible causes of Sally's illness: was it their living under the threat of eviction that fuelled his daughter's instability? Or her parents' divorce? Or a schoolfriend being murdered by her own father, aged six? Even as Greenberg rigorously examines his situation, and considers it from the myriad perspectives of his family, the sense of never really being able to know is poignant.