The Best Minds by Jonathan Rosen [10/10]

Anyone who has experience of a loved one with mental illness, especially severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, knows the terrain as terrifying and lonely. In The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions, American author and editor Jonathan Rosen provides us with an unparalleled vantage on the subject, through a deeply personal memoir/biography that centers on his childhood best friend Michael Laudor. Along the way, the author beams a sharp light on the last century or so of psychiatry and the societal care of mental patients. Laudor’s story is portrayed as both heroic and tragic. A supremely “bright” young man, Laudor begins exhibiting hallucinations and madness in his early adult years, comes close to dropping out of society, is resurrected by a supporting community of legal mentors who support him to a legal qualification, has a moment in the sun due to a New York Times article that portrays him as a courageous high-performing schizophrenic, plus a pending movie treatment, and then in 1998 (aged 35) commits a horrifying act of violence. It has taken the author a decade and a half to process his friend’s tumultuous life, and the result is an eloquent, tightly controlled, vehement and passionate account that is both intellectually energizing and emotionally harrowing to read. The Best Minds is a triumph.

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