At the age of twenty-seven, married, living in New York, and working in book design, Mary Cregan gave birth to her first child, a daughter she names Anna. Two days later, Anna died―plunging Cregan into suicidal despair. In her memoir, Cregan interweaves her descent into depression with a medical and cultural history of her illness.
...so remarkable and so important ... Cregan’s descriptive prose is so potent, so vivid and yet so restrained, that I suspect the initial impulse of most readers will be, as mine was, to want the book to remain on this plane of direct personal experience. But this is to fall into the trap of prejudice by reinforcing the idea that the person who has suffered in this way has nothing to offer except a subjective account of how it felt. She has much more to offer: a superbly intelligent and subtle interrogation of depression itself as a way of understanding these experiences...It is not that Cregan ever loses sight of her own story of illness and recovery – rather that she sees it (and allows us to see it) alternately from the inside and the outside, as both an extremely intimate and a broadly human truth ... Her gripping, elegant, constantly illuminating book reoccupies the clinical term 'a history of depression'. She has that history but it does not have her. She has written herself both into and out of it.
...quietly elegant... [Cregan] tries to grab mental illness and depression by its roots in human history. For those of us family members who've wrestled with it, her examination of melancholia (melan from the Greek, transliterated into Latin, meaning 'black, dark, murky,' and khole, 'bile') makes this book an instant classic.
Cregan affirms the medical and social belief that suicidal depression is not a normal response to loss, no matter how grievous that loss. Perhaps because of my own tendencies, it took a fair amount of persuasion to convince me, but persuade me Cregan did ... Cregan poignantly demonstrates the hard-won pragmatism of those who have battled mental illness...Confronting public fears of shock treatment, she ultimately responds with a shrug — it’s not that dangerous, it’s not even that invasive, and it saves lives. My sentiments exactly ... In addition to exploring character, Cregan’s book argues that literary, poetic, and mythological context can help us survive depression ... While reading The Scar, you break when Cregan breaks, you heal when she fully returns to life. These eternal patterns — day following night, spring following winter, hope following madness — will resonate with any reader while offering affirmation for those peculiarly bound by these cycles. In providing kinship to its fellow traveler, The Scar becomes the best sort of memoir—one that serves a higher purpose