Author(s): Susan Doherty
A compelling act of connection, leavened with humour, clear-eyed yet packed with hope. --Ann-Marie MacDonaldA rare work of narrative non-fiction that illuminates a world most of us try not to see: the daily lives of the severely mentally ill, who are medicated, marginalized, locked away and shunned. Susan Doherty's groundbreaking book brings us a population of lost souls, ill-served by society, feared, shunted from locked wards to rooming houses to the streets to jail and back again. For the past 10 years, many who have cycled in and out of the locked wards of the Douglas Institute in Montreal found a friend in Susan, who volunteers on the wards and then accompanies her friends out into the world. With their full cooperation, she brings us intimate stories that challenge our views of people with mental illness. Through Caroline Evans, a woman in her early sixties whom Susan has known since she was a bright, sunny school girl, we experience living with schizophrenia, such as when Caroline was convinced she could save her roommate from the devil by pouring boiling water into her ear... She has been through it all, including having to navigate an indifferent justice system that is incapable of serving the severely ill. Susan interleaves Caroline's story with vignettes about her other friends--stories that reveal their hopes, circumstances, personalities, humanity. Susan found that if she can hang in through the first 10-15 minutes of every coffee date with someone in the grip of psychosis, true communication results. Their madness is not otherworldly: instead it tells us something about how they're surviving their lives and what they've been through. The Ghost Garden carries a cargo of compassion and empathy that motivates us to re-examine our understanding of justice, society and humanity.