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Zig-Zag Boy

A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood

by Tanya Frank

Zig-Zag Boy by Tanya Frank X
Zig-Zag Boy by Tanya Frank
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  • Lesa R. (Joliet, IL)
    Zig-Zag Boy
    I really enjoyed this sometimes heartbreaking book as I really like memoirs about peoples experiences with situations like Tanya's. I used to know someone a lot like Zach and so a lot of the things she wrote about I could relate to. It's amazing what some people have to go through in order to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan for themselves or their loved one especially in a case like this where Zach had no control over his illness and could not help himself. As I mentioned, it brought back memories for me of someone I used to know who was schizophrenic. When he took his meds he was fine. When not, well that's another story. And I am not here to tell my story. Just comment that I, in a much smaller way than Tanya obviously, can relate to what she went through and I appreciate her sharing her very brave story with the world and I was happy to read her words.
  • Alison (Hamilton, NJ)
    It Could Happen to You
    Tanya Frank is a likable everymom who finds herself faced with disaster. Her child's sudden illness cannot be healed or even clearly defined. As mothers, we know these possibilities exist, but it's easier to believe they only happen to other people. Frank's memoir is a clear, intelligent narrative of the lengths any of us would go to for our children and the courage to live our own lives despite that struggle.

    As the mother of a kid with special needs, I identified with the feeling of my child's life possibilities narrowed overnight by a diagnosis. I also appreciated this memoir's insight into what it means to have a mental break, how some people live with the condition, and the effects of psychotic drugs. Frank's firsthand account really normalized this misunderstood diagnosis and brought to light all of the difficulties brought on by both the illness and the treatment.

    Throughout the memoir, we're reminded that Frank is not just Zak's mother, but a person in her own right. Her love of marine mammals gives her a sense of purpose and identity apart from motherhood.

    I often get the same feeling at the end of a memoir that there should be more, and Zig-Zag Boy was no exception. I truly hope Tanya Frank and her son find their way to peace.
  • Susan L. (Alexandria, VA)
    All too familiar
    This is a heartbreaking tale of a mother's journey into caring for a child who has lost touch with reality. It brought back so many emotions of staring down the same path with my son. Frank found a way to move forward despite the chaos and fear. I applaud her bravery and honesty in this book. It is a beautiful tale for those of us on a similar path. More mothers need to claim their stories and struggles.
  • Dianne S. (East Meadow, NY)
    A mother, son and psychosis, the ties that bind
    In Zig-Zag boy by Tanya Frank, the author eloquently describes mothering Zach, a young man suffering from schizoaffective disorder As her son becomes more and more detached from reality, Frank must learn to ground herself and manage her own despair. She turns to nature but that calm is often shattered by Zach's increasing inability to cope on his own.
    Frank soon learns that psychosis is never cured, only managed. She watches as a variety of doctors prescribe and often over prescribe an amazing number of drugs. The drugs come with multiple side effects that result in Zach refusing to continue taking them.
    As readers we come to care about both mother and son, but while Zach's journey is never linear and exudes hopelessness, it is Tanya who we watch with careful hope. She finds other parents who travel her path, she works hard to maintain her relationship with her wife Nance and becomes a docent in a seal sanctuary. Tanya is successful in her endeavors but as she notes she is always afraid. It is this fear that compels her to find yet another treatment option for her son in first California then England.
    This book occasionally loses it's way as it careens from one location to another. My head spun as Tanya moves constantly and veers from trying to over manage Zach to seeking to leave him on his own. I soon came to realize that occasional chaos is the definition and essence of this mother's life. It is an old cliché that a parents' happiness is diluted by your most unhappy child. We watch Tanya struggle to overcome that reality. This book brings us along and we learn to care, fear and become invested in the journey. This excellent memoir, written with love, humor and insight brings us into the struggle. It is well worth reading and caring.
  • Amber H. (Asheville, NC)
    Beautiful and Heartbreaking
    Well written memoir focusing on how mental illness impacts the family system. Tanaya Frank also describes the challenges of the mental health system in both US and UK - many times, these systems are set up for failure. A difficult, yet important read to better understand mental health challenges and the need to address how we support them.
  • Linda A. (Encino, CA)
    A Mother Seeks for Answers and Acceptance for her Son's Sudden Illness
    Zig-Zag Boy is Tanya Frank's memoir about her heartbreaking journey through a decade of trauma after her nineteen-year-old son Zach experiences a sudden psychotic break. Right from the first terrifying chapter, I was gripped by her descriptions of her frantic search for answers to explain his bizarre, life-threatening symptoms. I was also amazed at her resilience as she navigated the over-burdened healthcare systems in Los Angeles, and her native England, through multiple diagnoses and failed treatments.

    Frank's writing is specific, fluid, and emotional; you feel her anguish and frustration as she struggles to keep Zach alive, ever hopeful of finding a way for them both to live with the relentless uncertainty of his condition. Frank finds she must also tend to her own mental and physical health and keep her relationship with her wife intact.

    Throughout years of dark moments, Frank seeks solace in the natural world. She reminisces about times she spent as a volunteer docent at an elephant seal sanctuary in Northern California. Ten years into Zach's illness, she returns there to watch the mother seals who have birthed their young as they prepare to send them out to sea alone. She worries about Zach and wonders if she can ever become "a woman who isn't solely consumed by looking after her son, trying to put him together again."

    After years of heartbreaking obstacles, Frank wants to achieve balance. She cannot fix Zach, but she will make sure he's safe. And she will provide an opportunity for him to have at least some agency over himself. "Although I gave him a body," she says, "he has his own spirit. This is the lesson I must learn."
  • Susan S. (Springdale, AR)
    Zig-Zag Boy
    I loved this book, and I hated it. It is so real and so raw. Tanya Frank offers up a first-person reality story of how an entire family suffers when one member is afflicted with mental illness. Truthfully, this could be any family with a member who requires constant care and/or vigilance, from a child born with a severe disability to an adult who suffers from dementia. Caregivers often lose themselves in the struggle to just make it thru another day. I felt angry with Zach for seemingly refusing to help himself and his inability to recognize the extremes to which his mother had gone to keep him safe. I had to remind myself that he was not GIVING her a hard time, he was HAVING a hard time. I've found myself taking a closer look at the homeless in my community and wondering if any of them could be like Zach, living on the street rather than accepting mind numbing drugs or institutionalization.
    Mental illness is invisible, and people who suffer are mistakenly expected to live "as if": as if a little pill can make it go away; as if they can just snap out of it; as if they should be able to conform. I have nothing but respect for Ms. Frank. I don't think I would have the grit to do what she has done for her son. Keep watching those seals!

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