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Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America A Memoir

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Elizabeth Wurtzel

A memoir of sex, drugs, and depression indicts an overmedicated America as it chronicles the fortunes of a Harvard educated child of divorce who lived in the fast lane as a music critic, always fighting her chronic depression.

Author: Elizabeth Wurtzel
Genre: Biography & Autobiography
Publisher: Replica Books
Date Published: May 01, 1999
1 review about Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America...

One Nation Under Prozac

  • Jun 11, 2007
Rating:
+3
Pros: Honest, interesting, a real-life story of depression

Cons: Does she think she's the only American who's truly depressed?

The Bottom Line: Read with an open mind. It may take several tries.

I first heard of Elizabeth Wurtzel's book Prozac Nation when I was about sixteen years old. At the time, I myself had only recently been put on Prozac and the title obviously caught my eye as I reshelved it at the library where I worked. I was excited to begin a book with such a promising title, hopeful to learn about someone else who might have been in the same position I myself was. I read about 75 pages into it and returned it. Months later, as I (again) was reshelving the book, I pulled it aside for myself. I wondered what had disinterested me so much and flipped through the book, eventually deciding to try it again. It was turned in unread again two weeks later. And repeat. And repeat. I eventually quit trying to read it, just as I also quit taking my Prozac. Oh yeah, and I quit my job at the library. I've since finished school, gone back on Prozac (though on and off) and applied for a more professional position at the library. Back into that routine again... I checked out Prozac Nation the same day I picked up my application. Today, one month later, I have been hired and have also (finally!!) finished the book.

Elizabeth Wurtzel precedes the prologue with a simple quote from Marguerite Duras's The Lover: "Very early in my life it was too late." Thus begins a trip, one might say, from hell. As a child Elizabeth was a smart girl, "Full of Promise," whom everyone knew would do great things and become something really special. Her parents went through a nasty divorce when she was very young which understandably impacted her life very heavily. Elizabeth talks about her mother's extreme moods and feelings and her dad's numbness, describing the polar opposite feelings this produced, going also into detail about the arguments her parents often had. She goes on to talk about being sent to summer camps, how they impacted her and how over time she began evolving into a more sad, depressed, confused teenager. She describes hiding in the girls' locker room at school, cutting herself and listening to the depressing chords and lyrics of her favorite artists.

Elizabeth also describes her experiences in Cambridge at Harvard University, writing about her deteriorating mental state and the crazy incidents that, while often humorous, ease her down the path to severe depression. At one point, she describes being chased through the commons by her best friend (who is, by the way, wielding a knife) who's boyfriend she has just attempted to steal. She also details her summer spent in Dallas in a chapter rightfully titled "Drinking in Dallas." As titled, most of her time there is spent drinking, though she also wrote quite a bit. It is during her college years that Elizabeth becomes a patient of Dr. Sterling, a doctor that ultimately turns Elizabeth's life around little by little with therapy and prescriptions including, of course, Prozac. Elizabeth Wurtzel in fact, is prescribed Prozac before it is completely available to the public. Elizabeth is also frequently hospitalized both by her own choice and at the suggestion of Dr. Sterling throughout her college career.

Elizabeth Wurtzel details her depression in a way not many are capable of. For those that don't suffer from severe depression it is often difficult to understand the driving force, what makes depression what it is. As someone who suffers from this affliction myself, it was very emotional to read such a book that is so brutally honest about the feelings, emotions and thoughts as well as the many personal situations and histories that cause depression. After reading Prozac Nation in its entirety I was overwhelmed with comfort. Throughout Elizabeth's memoir I had a constant thought in my head: That's me. I could relate to many of the situations she was caught in and could recall times I've had the exact same thoughts and emotions, whether they are of sad or happy nature. Prozac Nation was a book of self-discovery for me; I was able to relate to someone for once, and the message that I'm not alone was successfully drilled into my head only after completing the book, though friends, family, and therapists have been repeating it to me for years.

This aspect of Elizabeth Wurtzel's memoir was its saving point to me, but it could also be its downfall to other readers who can't relate as easily. To put it bluntly, this book can be, at times, very boring and repetitive. The author could probably have cut out 50 pages and the book wouldn't have suffered any. I hate to say this, especially after reading it in other epinioners' reviews, but I'll drive the point home: Does Elizabeth Wurtzel think she's the only depressed American? At times that does seem to be the case. She seems to have the attitude that no one understands or cares that she is depressed. I can, however, admit that this is a flaw most depressed American's carry, though only a few of them write of it in so much detail. Simply put: Prozac Nation's flaws are also it's high-points, depending on your own mood when you read the book.

You will enjoy this book if you are at all curious about Elizabeth Wurtzel, depression, or Prozac. It is at times sad, but with the turn of a single page you may find yourself laughing again.

Recommended:
Yes

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