"I wondered if he felt compelled to do these things in an effort to create some order in his confused mind."

This 2014 memoir chronicles a decade of events beginning in 1973 as the author, a teacher of modern languages at a London comprehensive school, recounts her life with husband Vincent, a Jamaican carpenter who increasingly exhibits the signs of schizophrenia, becoming convinced that others are out to get him, especially his wife. Eventually, he begins hearing voices and becomes mentally and physically abusive to both his wife and children. He wavers over believing that he has serious behavioral issues that require professional help, as he voluntarily checks himself into the hospital for observation but leaves after only two days. Over time, he receives a modicum of help by attending counseling appointments, but his illness goes largely untreated.

Adrift is a harrowing read, especially for its scenes of domestic violence. It gradually approaches its main subject matter, and for some readers, this early pace may be challenging. Adams emphasizes her sense of powerlessness against the inherent bureaucracy of institutions, as social services, law enforcement, and mental health professionals are all equally ineffective in getting Vincent the long-term help he needs. The author’s frustration is exacerbated because she has virtually no support system; she is estranged from her family at the time of these events and has few friends in whom to confide. Thus, her sense of isolation is palpable throughout the narrative. Especially compelling is the way Adams illustrates the swift progression of the illness and how it permeates every aspect of the couple’s lives to the point where they become strangers to one another: “He could no more relate to the way I felt than I could understand the mental anguish that he was going through.” It’s a captivating read throughout.

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