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Jake McCook, Laurette McCook
Author, Contributor
The Cliffs of Schizophrenia

Adult; Self-Help, Sex & Relationships, Psychology, Philosophy, Fashion; (Market)

Cliffs of Schizophrenia: A poignant mother and son perspective on Jake's journey with schizophrenia. Written in a journal-style format, this book offers comfort and insight to those navigating the world of this brain disease, whether as sufferers or loving caregivers. An indispensable bedside companion, a reminder that you are not alone.
Mother-son duo Jake and Laurette McCook have courageously written a must-read memoir of a mental-health journey, facing with welcome candor the experiences, fears, and challenges of a schizophrenia diagnosis. In brisk chapters from both McCooks’ perspectives, The Cliffs of Schizophrenia details Jake had long endured anxiety, depression, and more before his hospitalization at the start of his thirties and the subsequent diagnosis. Laurette recalls that his struggle dates back to preschool. When a teacher recommended that Jake, at age four, be put on medication because of his intense focus and “tendency to play alone,” Laurette balked (“How dare she!”), seeing him as eccentric and creative. But as he grew older Jake showed more troubling signs: social anxiety, paranoia, and panic attacks. By 21 he was a heavy drinker, as alcohol was “the only thing that quiets my brain.”

The McCooks offers a rare double perspective that illuminates the complexities of living with schizophrenia. As Jake searched for an effective cocktail of drugs to stabilize his mind and behavior, Laurette embarked on an often frustrating quest to make sure he took those drugs and refrained from drinking. The authors tell their tales in turns, each contributing a series of meditations that offer extraordinary insight into schizophrenia, its treatment, and the everyday challenges of sharing or hiding one’s truth. “It takes a lot of energy to hide liquor bottles from someone,” Jake admits. His reflections and Laurette’s side of the story—her combination of bottomless hope and “parental PTSD”—are equally poignant.

This is a captivating story, as heartbreaking as it is inspiring. Jake strives to capture, in some chapters, the gush of fractured thoughts sometimes unleashed in his head, suggesting the harrowing experiences while also acknowledging that “It’s almost impossible to write something of worth to match the schizophrenia that I feel.” This book will prove a valued bedside companion to caregivers, loved ones, and anyone facing such a diagnosis.

Takeaway: A mother and son’s touching, insightful story of a schizophrenia diagnosis.

Comparable Titles: Vince Granata’s Everything Is Fine, Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennett’s The Quiet Room.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-

Kirkus Review

Kirkus Review  

THE CLIFFS OF SCHIZOPHRENIA Jake McCook and Laurette McCook BookBaby (246 pp.)$17.99 paperback ISBN: 9798350925968 December 15, 2023  BOOK REVIEWMcCook and his mother recall their joint struggle with his schizophrenia in this memoir. While in preschool, at only 4 years old, Jake McCook displayed such remarkable focus his teacher noticed and recommended, to his parents’ dismay, that he be put on medication. Laurette McCook saw her son as quirkily eccentric and impressively creative, not the bearer of some treatable dysfunction. As he grew older, though, he showed more troubling signs: “Crippling social anxiety,” paranoia, and panic attacks becameincreasingly common. Sometimes, he was afraid to eat food he was convinced was poisoned, and he believed that there were spies scrutinizing his life— terrifying fears chillingly related by the authors. During his teens, Jake began to self-medicate with alcohol, and by the age of 21 he was a heavy drinker, alcohol consumption being the only way he knew to quiet the ceaseless turmoil in his own mind.Finally, Jake was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and a search for an effective cocktail of drugs to stabilize his behavior began, as did Laurette’soften frustrating quest to make sure he took those drugs and refrained from drinking. The authors relay their parallel tales in turns, eachcontributing a series of generally brief meditations, the totality of which add up to an extraordinary look into the disease and the challenge of its management. Here Jake reflects on the most daunting aspect of schizophrenia—its incurability: “The absolute permanence of schizophrenia is a nightmare. I can’t imagine having to deal with it my entire life. I go to sleep with schizophrenia, and I wake up with schizophrenia. This is on a loopin my head, and I can’t believe the power it has over me.” Laurette’s side of the story—her combination of bottomless hope and “parental PTSD”—is equally poignant. This is a captivating story, one as instructive as it is dramatically powerful and as heartbreaking as it is inspiring. An unflinchingly realistic look at a little-understood disease.