On that fateful day in the barn, Richard Pollak angrily shouted down to his parents, “Tell him you’ll punish him if he doesn’t stop hiding!” Moments later he was sucked into a maelstrom of hot straw. He has no memory of how he managed to extricate himself and get down from the loft, or of anything else on that summer day, when his 11-year-old mentally disturbed brother, with whom he had been playing hide-and-seek, slipped through the same hole and fell thirty-five feet to his death. Only a few months later, the author, then fourteen, lost consciousness and also fell: down a flight of stairs, awakening to learn that he suffered from the “falling sickness,” epilepsy. Twenty-five years on, he was still coping with the unnerving disorder and the depressive side effects of anticonvulsant medication, when his mother fell through a hole and nearly died much as his brother had. After the Barn is a gripping account of this traumatic family history, at once a penetrating exploration of the medical, psychological and literary worlds of epilepsy, mental illness, and early death, and a deeply personal rumination on grief, sibling guilt, and the elusiveness of memory. Richard Pollak, the author of four previous books and a contributing editor of The Nation, has given us a memoir that concludes with redemptive revelations that will likely surprise the reader as much as they did the author.
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Published April 4, 2013
Biographies & Memoirs.