The Apparition | Critical Book Review

A Moving Tale of Love and Suffering

When I dive into a memoir that captures my attention, I can’t help but think of my favorite memoirist, Joan Didion, who once famously expressed, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” For me, a memoir becomes worthwhile when it takes me on a journey of self-discovery, when I sense the author’s earnest quest to unearth the depths of their psyche within the pages. “The Apparition,” penned by Tricia Stafford with contributions from her daughter, Annie, not only meets these criteria but excels in doing so.

What initially appears as a mother’s private journal intended solely for her adult daughter evolves into a profound and intimate exploration of their individual yet intertwined battles with mental health. Tricia Stafford believed that enrolling her young daughter, Annie, in a Catholic school would provide structure and an enriching curriculum, but as she candidly admits, it turned out to be a “misstep that altered the course of Annie’s life and thrust us down a rabbit hole of misery.”

From the tender age of seven onward, Annie grapples with a range of mental health issues, including debilitating anxiety, OCD, depression, and auditory hallucinations. Tricia is haunted by her desperate yearning to aid her daughter and “fix” everything, all the while delving into her own history of mental illness and its potential implications for Annie.

As Tricia’s own anxiety gradually engulfs her, it becomes an overpowering force in her life, leading her to contemplate whether escaping life entirely would be preferable to enduring it. Despite the heavy subject matter, an undercurrent of hope prevails throughout their journey. These two women share an unwavering love for each other, evident in their eventual commitment to take charge of their own lives and each other’s, regardless of the pain and adversity that may accompany them.

Tricia bares her soul and shares her personal narrative intimately. By laying bare the weighty intricacies of her and her daughter’s struggles, she vividly illustrates their tangible growth as mother and individuals, providing a poignant example of what it takes to cultivate self-respect. She leaves no stone unturned in her exploration of past mistakes, fears, and afflictions.

One of the most poignant segments of the book revolves around Tricia’s reflection on her role as a mother and how it nearly consumed her. She elucidates how she arrived at her current state and steadfastly expresses her determination to transform it.

We’ve all lost ourselves at some point in life, and “The Apparition” serves as a solemn reminder to tend to every facet of our existence, not merely the aspects immediately before us. It could also serve as a beginner’s guide for anyone grappling with their own apparent mental illness or that of a loved one.

Tricia and Annie recount their frustrating experiences within the mental health system and shed light on the necessary changes needed to genuinely assist individuals in need, both then and now. The inclusion of a bibliography at the memoir’s conclusion, focusing on anxiety and depression, along with information on their involvement with the Hearing Voices Movement, provides the finishing touch. Although they acknowledge that they haven’t entirely emerged from the woods, they emphasize that it’s an ongoing journey, one they want you to be aware of as well.

I heartily recommend “The Apparition” to anyone with a family member or loved one grappling with any form of mental illness. Whether you’re struggling to comprehend their actions or you find a piece of yourself in their turmoil, the Stafford women open up their lives, inviting you to peer inside and glean lessons from their experiences. They don’t claim that their situation will mirror yours, but they do assert that assuming responsibility for your mental and spiritual well-being represents a promising initial step.

Modern Book Details:

PublisherGenrePrint LengthISBN
Atmosphere PressNonfiction / Memoir / Mental Health & Mental Illness252 pages978-1639886012

A Moving Tale of Love and Suffering When I dive into a memoir that captures my attention, I can’t help but think of my favorite memoirist, Joan Didion, who once famously expressed, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want…