House of Happy Endings
By Leslie Garis
Leslie Garis’ childhood was a fairy tale: Her grandfather was the author of the
series of children’s books; her grandmother wrote the Bobbsey Twins novels; her father was a dashing magazine editor; and they all lived in an enormous, magical house in Amherst, Massachusetts. The fairy tale ends abruptly when Garis’ father descends into a bewildering mental illness. What follows are decades of psychiatric hospitals, addiction, financial ruin, violence, and death. The book is a devastating chronicle of her family’s unraveling and the desperate efforts that were made to treat her father. What’s astonishing about the
is not only Garis’ vivid memories from childhood, but her depiction of how crude the treatment was for depression in the 1950s and 1960s (at several institutions described in the book, evening cocktails were served and amphetamines prescribed). Garis is an extraordinary writer, and the grace with which she describes her own survival is what allows this to be much more than a grim family tragedy.