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Friday, August 3, 2012

January First - Book Review - July 2012

TITLE:  January First: A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her
AUTHOR:  Michael Schofield
PUBLISHED DATE:  August 7th, 2012
Non-Fiction  304 pages

Summary (from
Michael Schofield’s daughter January is at the mercy of her imaginary friends, except they aren’t the imaginary friends that most young children have; they are hallucinations. And January is caught in the conflict between our world and their world, a place she calls Calalini. Some of these hallucinations, like “24 Hours,” are friendly and some, like “400 the Cat” and “Wednesday the Rat,” bite and scratch her until she does what they want. They often tell her to scream at strangers, jump out of buildings, and attack her baby brother.

At six years old, January Schofield, “Janni,” to her family, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, one of the worst mental illnesses known to man. What’s more, schizophrenia is 20 to 30 times more severe in children than in adults and in January’s case, doctors say, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her.

January First captures Michael and his family's remarkable story in a narrative that forges new territory within books about mental illness. In the beginning, readers see Janni’s incredible early potential: her brilliance, and savant-like ability to learn extremely abstract concepts. Next, they witnesses early warning signs that something is not right, Michael’s attempts to rationalize what’s happening, and his descent alongside his daughter into the abyss of schizophrenia. Their battle has included a two-year search for answers, countless medications and hospitalizations, allegations of abuse, despair that almost broke their family apart and, finally, victories against the illness and a new faith that they can create a life for Janni filled with moments of happiness.

A compelling, unsparing and passionate account, January First vividly details Schofield’s commitment to bring his daughter back from the edge of insanity. It is a father’s soul-baring memoir of the daily struggles and challenges he and his wife face as they do everything they can to help Janni while trying to keep their family together.

I received the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book thanks to the publisher and Netgalley.
I had seen the interview with this little girl and her parents on Oprah over a year ago, so I was a little familiar with the story.  I was intrigued and wanted to read this story so I could get more details.  I started and finished this book in only 2 days.  Michael Schofield writes without fuss, and without embellishing details in order to win sympathy for himself, his daughter or his family.  He isn't trying to sensationalize his situation, instead in a heartbreakingly honest voice he tells us the story from his point of view.  I was so touched to my core by the lenghths that these parents were willing to.  Most people unfortunatly would have taken a much easier road and instituionalized January and then blamed the system for failing them.  But these amazing people never stopped believing or fighting for her life!  As a parent of a special needs child I could relate to so much of the insanity, frustration, denial, fear and disappointment.  This book will make any parent or person grateful for the simple things in life that we all take for granted.  I love that they saw a child trapped inside her disease and not a broken person!  Grab a tissue box and read this book!  My rating:  5 out of 5

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