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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is the story of a sixteen-year-old who retreats from reality into the bondage of a lushly imagined but threatening kingdom, and her slow and painful journey back to sanity. Chronicles the three-year battle of a mentally ill, but perceptive, teenage girl against a world of her own creation, emphasizing her relationship with the doctor who g I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is the story of a sixteen-year-old who retreats from reality into the bondage of a lushly imagined but threatening kingdom, and her slow and painful journey back to sanity. Chronicles the three-year battle of a mentally ill, but perceptive, teenage girl against a world of her own creation, emphasizing her relationship with the doctor who gave her the ammunition of self-understanding with which to help herself. "I wrote this novel, which is a fictionalized autobiography, to give a picture of what being schizophrenic feels like and what can be accomplished with a trusting relationship between a gifted therapist and a willing patient. It is not a case history or study. I like to think it is a hymn to reality." —Joanne Greenberg


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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is the story of a sixteen-year-old who retreats from reality into the bondage of a lushly imagined but threatening kingdom, and her slow and painful journey back to sanity. Chronicles the three-year battle of a mentally ill, but perceptive, teenage girl against a world of her own creation, emphasizing her relationship with the doctor who g I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is the story of a sixteen-year-old who retreats from reality into the bondage of a lushly imagined but threatening kingdom, and her slow and painful journey back to sanity. Chronicles the three-year battle of a mentally ill, but perceptive, teenage girl against a world of her own creation, emphasizing her relationship with the doctor who gave her the ammunition of self-understanding with which to help herself. "I wrote this novel, which is a fictionalized autobiography, to give a picture of what being schizophrenic feels like and what can be accomplished with a trusting relationship between a gifted therapist and a willing patient. It is not a case history or study. I like to think it is a hymn to reality." —Joanne Greenberg

30 review for I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

  1. 4 out of 5

    Majenta

    "'Oh, do come in, dear Doctor. You are just in time for the patient's soothing tea and the end of the world.'" p. 17. "'The HIDDEN strength is too deep a secret. But in the end...it is our only ally.'" Dr. Fried, page 19. "'I'm a hundred square yards sane.' If there were such things as man-hours and light-years, surely there was foot-sanity." p. 21. "'Then you're not going to be indifferent...' ... 'You're damn right I'm not!'" Deborah and Dr. Fried, p. 45. "'We will work hard, together, and we will "'Oh, do come in, dear Doctor. You are just in time for the patient's soothing tea and the end of the world.'" p. 17. "'The HIDDEN strength is too deep a secret. But in the end...it is our only ally.'" Dr. Fried, page 19. "'I'm a hundred square yards sane.' If there were such things as man-hours and light-years, surely there was foot-sanity." p. 21. "'Then you're not going to be indifferent...' ... 'You're damn right I'm not!'" Deborah and Dr. Fried, p. 45. "'We will work hard, together, and we will understand.' ... 'As long as we can stand at all.'" Dr. Fried and Deborah, p. 99. "'If I can learn these things...can read and learn, why is it still so dark?'" Deborah, p. 120. "'Do you think you could compete with my smallest nightmare on its dullest day?'" Deborah, p. 122. "'Your spatial laws are okay, but God--watch out for the choices you give us!'" Deborah, p. 126. "'...they build their tortures so cunningly!' ... 'You mean the restraints?'... 'I mean the HOPE!'" Deborah and Sylvia, p. 135. "'Let us bless the strength that let you see, and work toward the time when you will be able also to DO what you see to do.'" Dr. Fried, p. 174. "'I'm tired and scared and I just don't care any more what happens. Work in the dark and work in the cold and what for! ... The more garbage I give away the more I have left. YOU can turn me off.... I can't turn me off, so I'm turning the fight off." Deborah, p. 185, "'Typical regional cooking. They never say what region, but I have some ideas!'" "Fiorentini's Mary," p. 193. Read. Feel. Learn. Experience. Thanks for reading.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    I first read this in 1966 when I was 13 and in the 8th grade and it became my favorite book and remained my favorite book throughout high school. I reread it many times, although it's been years since my last reading. This is a story of a young woman ages 16-19 who is suffering from severe mental illness (in the book she is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia) in a mental hospital. My understanding is that this book is based on a true story and the hospital was Chestnut Lodge and the psychiatr I first read this in 1966 when I was 13 and in the 8th grade and it became my favorite book and remained my favorite book throughout high school. I reread it many times, although it's been years since my last reading. This is a story of a young woman ages 16-19 who is suffering from severe mental illness (in the book she is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia) in a mental hospital. My understanding is that this book is based on a true story and the hospital was Chestnut Lodge and the psychiatrist was Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. Reading it now, it seems as though the main character, Deborah, was probably actually suffering from major depression with psychosis and not schizophrenia at all – but that hardly matters. It’s a good story about making an effort, one's ability to change, hope, and friendship, and it’s written with a lot of empathy for all of the characters. And I admit that I so identified with Deborah that I didn't even absorb that fact of her psychosis; I took the descriptions as metaphor.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brittni

    To get below the surface of this book, one must invest himself/herself. This I was willing to do. As a fellow sufferer of mental illness, I long for memoirs of those who've gone through the same as me. It's easy to read a book without really getting it, and that's why the people in other reviews have given this book below five stars. They're quick to say it's boring, afraid of the cause the book gives for deep thinking, which they probably haven't been able to grasp. They're the ones who've neve To get below the surface of this book, one must invest himself/herself. This I was willing to do. As a fellow sufferer of mental illness, I long for memoirs of those who've gone through the same as me. It's easy to read a book without really getting it, and that's why the people in other reviews have given this book below five stars. They're quick to say it's boring, afraid of the cause the book gives for deep thinking, which they probably haven't been able to grasp. They're the ones who've never gone through such mental illness, and hopefully never will. This book wasn't written for them, so of course they'd feel that way. This book was meant for those of my ilk... My mind never created its own world, gods, gestures, language like Deborah's (and the author's) did, but the mental illness aspect is enough commonality. The knowledge of being painfully different in a normal world, peopled with humans who're so luckily hinged (Titans, the author calls them, for being able to live the right way, though they don't realize their strength)...yes, I have this. The want for the Maybe, but also the fear of it...I have this, too. These depictions in the book reach out for those of us who've gone through the same. The strange intelligence of the mentally ill rings beautifully in this book, though some of the things Deborah says are tough to get at times. She speaks in metaphors, and the meaning's not always clear. Happily for her, she has Dr. Fried, who knows just how to handle Deborah and is on level with her in a way most other doctors couldn't be. At some point in the book, Fried goes on a trip, leaving Deborah in the hands of Dr. Royson, a man with totally different methods than Fried. While Fried understood Deborah's need for Yr to be acknowledged as real (as it WAS to Deborah), Royson painfully tried to drive home the lie of its existence, and Deborah can't handle his ways of therapy. This instance shows that people can't just go out to a doctor and hope to find the right one. It takes sometimes several tries to find someone on the right level, which might seem obvious to some but others still don't realize this. Fried was perfect for Deborah, understanding the crucial need for Deborah not to be lied to. Several times she said that the world would not be perfect. Life would be unjust. "I never promised you a rose garden." Saying these things early on and often led to Deborah being able to handle life's ups and downs eventually, though she still had slip-ups. Fried also was able to eventually track down each of Deborah's core problems to their source, a miracle which doesn't happen often in psychology. Fried saw that there was hope in Deborah, because Deborah subconsciously realized that the defense she created from the real world, Yr, had become not just an escape, but also a trap. She cuts herself in her plea for help, not in a suicide attempt, and this leads her to being put in the hospital, where she realizes she belongs almost instantly. She has something in her that's fighting to get out, and that's what leads to her being one of the few to overcome her illness. Another part of the book I liked is Greenberg's showing not only Deborah's thoughts, but the parents as well. In their turmoil and love we see that it's not their fault that Deborah began to suffer. So often we're quick to think that all problems stem from the home life...maybe an alcoholic father, a mother who doesn't listen. That's not the case with Deborah's parents. They're truly loving, which is proof that mental illness can occur to those with even the best family life (this is the case of me, also). Mental illness can stem from anything, really, and I hate that people think of instances leading up to it as being measurable, using their personal opinions to judge whether the trauma is proportional to the mental suffering thereafter. If they hear about a girl who had a bad surgery experience that was one of the core reasons for a later mental illness, they're less likely to take the illness seriously. I think this is a major fault with people today. Mental illness can't be measured like this; instances that might not affect some to much extent, affect others greatly, and we have no right to say one instance is more "worthy" a reason for illness than any other. Those who've never had an illness like this are prone to this kind of thinking...they'd do well instead not to form an opinion at all.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    This was a powerful and painful reading experience and not something I would have naturally gravitated to on my own. I chose to read this upon the recommendation of a friend and I'm very glad I did. I have no idea what the author's history is but she did a marvelous job at getting inside the head of a very disturbed girl who has been committed to a mental hospital. Reading this story reinforced my committment to never lie to my child. It brought back memories of my own teenage years and the lies This was a powerful and painful reading experience and not something I would have naturally gravitated to on my own. I chose to read this upon the recommendation of a friend and I'm very glad I did. I have no idea what the author's history is but she did a marvelous job at getting inside the head of a very disturbed girl who has been committed to a mental hospital. Reading this story reinforced my committment to never lie to my child. It brought back memories of my own teenage years and the lies or illusions I told myself in order to survive loneliness, insecurity and rejection. It was incredible to read about the complex world this young girl created to escape the the escalating fear, lack of control and pain present in her life. As a parent reading this, my thoughts turned to the huge difference in perception of events between children and adults. It's very scary to imagine that a seemingly innocuous occurence can leave such long lasting scars on the psyche of a child. By the end of the book I was left with an appreciation of the strength and resilience of human beings who suffer greatly and fight to come out the other side.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Ashleigh

    As someone who feels like they deal with mental illness on a daily basis, it was hard for me to enter the mind of someone with schizophrenia. I just couldn’t deal with the concept. It was well written but just not for me at this time.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Arminzerella

    When we meet Deborah, she’s on her way to a mental hospital. She’s two years short of finishing high school, and she’s recently been hospitalized for slitting her wrists. Her mother, at least, is aware that there’s something not quite right about Deborah, but she can’t really put her finger on what it is. A famous therapist agrees to work with Deborah to help her sort out her problems. Only pages into this novel, readers glimpse Deborah’s uniquely frightening psychological landscape – the land o When we meet Deborah, she’s on her way to a mental hospital. She’s two years short of finishing high school, and she’s recently been hospitalized for slitting her wrists. Her mother, at least, is aware that there’s something not quite right about Deborah, but she can’t really put her finger on what it is. A famous therapist agrees to work with Deborah to help her sort out her problems. Only pages into this novel, readers glimpse Deborah’s uniquely frightening psychological landscape – the land of Yr. It used to be more of a fantasy retreat for her, and she’d spend hours, days, with the gods of Yr (Anterrabae, Lactamaeon) soaring as a bird or running across the plains. But things started to change. There were the voices from the Pit, telling her how broken and poisonous she was, and there was the Censor, who promised to keep her safe, keep her sane, keep the secrets of Yr from the outside world, but who also began to control everything Deborah did, everything she was. It is Deborah’s job, with the help of her therapist, Dr. Fried (Furii, as she becomes known in the language of Yr), to turn to the real world, to attempt to live in it, and eventually, to leave Yr behind. Deborah’s just starting to feel that she might have the strength to do that. After reading this, it struck me how very fragile people are. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, is based on real events in Joanne Greenberg’s life (how could anything so rich, so strange, so fully formed, so psychological painful not be?) – her own mental illness, and her own struggle to return to the world. Things happen to us when we’re vulnerable and some people work through them, while others are broken in terrible ways – they fracture, they hide, they throw up shields and, for awhile, these coping mechanisms work for them. What strange creatures we are to do such things. In Deborah’s case, a number of things come into play, but there’s this seed incident when she’s a child – a tumor that’s removed, never adequately explained, and the lies that surround the surgery and recovery that really start her down the path into madness. I kept wondering, “How did it get so out of control? How did it get to this point?” I’m not sure I’d have the patience to be anyone’s guide out of madness. It takes years for Deborah to start making the kind of progress that her parents can see – getting to the point where she can be on the “B” floor with privileges to go out on the grounds, into town, stay out after dark. Eventually, she’s allowed to make contact with the community – join two choirs, a sewing group, get her own place to live, study for the GRE. And she continues to have setbacks – periods when she can’t handle it. Even at the end, Deborah returns to the mental hospital to take a breather, and realizes what her presence feels like to the other women on the ward – like the work is impossible. She wishes she had the way, the words to tell them what it’s really like. Deborah’s character is very insightful – into her own problems, into the issues of the other women she comes to know – and she’s also incredibly intelligent – it just seems to come out wrong, awkwardly. Being “of the world” myself, it was sometimes hard to figure out what she was getting at when she tried to speak, but her inner thoughts were incredibly lucid. There was a time where I was reading all kinds of things like this – The Bell Jar, Girl Interrupted – all kinds of things on depression and madness. I wonder if we all go through stages like this, where we’re dying to know what breaks someone, what insanity is like, how to crawl out of it if it turns out that we’re actually one of the mad. Deborah’s story was a fascinating trip down into insanity and back up again. Note: I believe this may have been published under a pseudonym – Hannah Green – initially. Joanne Greenberg makes reference to a “Hannah Green” in her afterword.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    What a beautifully written semi-autobiographical story of the struggle of a young girl attempting to refocus her energies on the real world, making the transition from being mentally ill and being mentally well, as well as the stigma placed on those who have psychiatric diagnoses. As someone with experience both as a mental health professional and a patient, I can see both perspectives. It is never easy to go from the safety of the hospital environment back into the world, where one must live a What a beautifully written semi-autobiographical story of the struggle of a young girl attempting to refocus her energies on the real world, making the transition from being mentally ill and being mentally well, as well as the stigma placed on those who have psychiatric diagnoses. As someone with experience both as a mental health professional and a patient, I can see both perspectives. It is never easy to go from the safety of the hospital environment back into the world, where one must live a productive life and move on from that point; it seems easy, at times, to give up, but I saw the triumph of the writer as she became successful in life.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Hill

    A moving, thought-provoking and inspiring account of a young girl's struggle with schizophrenia. Following a suicide attempt, Debra, aged just 16, is committed to a mental hospital. Over the next three years she works with her psychiatrist to understand her illness and explores the possibility of mental health. Her precarious progress is punctuated by periods where she falls back into the terror of her illness. I first read this book as a healthy twenty year old with high hopes for my future, an A moving, thought-provoking and inspiring account of a young girl's struggle with schizophrenia. Following a suicide attempt, Debra, aged just 16, is committed to a mental hospital. Over the next three years she works with her psychiatrist to understand her illness and explores the possibility of mental health. Her precarious progress is punctuated by periods where she falls back into the terror of her illness. I first read this book as a healthy twenty year old with high hopes for my future, and found it compelling, but strange. Ten years later I found a copy in a second hand bookshop, and re-read it, this time from the viewpoint of a former psychiatric patient with four hospital stays in my not-too-distant past and an uncertainty over my future. Now, I read this book for comfort, hope and above all to remind myself that while psychiatry and the treatment of mental illness may have moved on, the road to recovery from mental illness still follows the same pattern of two steps forward, one step back. Like Debra, my defence mechanism is to retreat into the familiar symptoms of my depression. Reading this book has helped me to recognise this pattern, and gave me renewed hope that there is a world outside my illness - even if it is not a rose garden!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This is a brilliant book and perhaps deserves more than three stars, but there are certainly problems, most having to do with our better understanding of schizophrenia in more recent times. As a historical document, the book powerfully represents a world in which large industrial-size mental hospitals were considered advanced, state-of-the-art facilities. Seclusion rooms and cold packs (trapping a patient in ice-cold sheets) were also considered constructive treatments, as was intensive psychoan This is a brilliant book and perhaps deserves more than three stars, but there are certainly problems, most having to do with our better understanding of schizophrenia in more recent times. As a historical document, the book powerfully represents a world in which large industrial-size mental hospitals were considered advanced, state-of-the-art facilities. Seclusion rooms and cold packs (trapping a patient in ice-cold sheets) were also considered constructive treatments, as was intensive psychoanalysis for psychosis. Greenberg's descriptions are poignant in this respect, especially because she was herself a patient in real life. She seems to have found the cold packs, seclusion, confinement in a prison-like ward to be stabilizing and helpful, which reminds one of how few options were available for sick people at the time. The other weakness is the depiction of other characters besides the mental patient Deborah Blau. There is much subtlety and complexity in these portrayals, but there is also a frustrating resort to stereotypes and superficiality. The parents, Esther and Jacob, are represented sympathetically but flatly and are also blamed (in part) for the psychosis, an outdated attitude. The younger sister Suzy is even more sketchily represented. The family, I'm sure, would have suffered much more intensely than Greenberg represents, especially since they are given only vague reports on their daughter's well-being. Also, Dr. Fried, although represented as a heroic figure, is never fully fleshed out, and neither are the other mental health workers. I admired the book tremendously, but it was also quite frustrating.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dad

    "[I like the] fine old word asylum that suggests a haven, a refuge, a place where hospitality and restfulness prevail." -George A Zeller MD, of Peoria State Hospital Joanne Greenberg was hospitalized for schizophrenia from 1948 to 1951. She was lucky. This was before the introduction of the pharmaceuticals that are the sum total of psychiatry today. It was after the craze for lobotomies and shock treatments (can you believe they gave the Nobel Prize to the guy who invented lobotomies?) She was lu "[I like the] fine old word asylum that suggests a haven, a refuge, a place where hospitality and restfulness prevail." -George A Zeller MD, of Peoria State Hospital Joanne Greenberg was hospitalized for schizophrenia from 1948 to 1951. She was lucky. This was before the introduction of the pharmaceuticals that are the sum total of psychiatry today. It was after the craze for lobotomies and shock treatments (can you believe they gave the Nobel Prize to the guy who invented lobotomies?) She was lucky to be treated by a psychiatrist who was compassionate and perceptive, and firmly believed that schizophrenia is curable, despite conventional wisdom. An asylum was a place where you could safely go mad, without harming yourself or anyone else. Greenberg's character is delighted by the discovery, after she is transferred to the "disturbed" ward, that she no longer has to keep up a semblance of sanity. The maintenance of that pseudo-sanity was only making her crazier. If she lost control, she could count on being put into the embrace of a wet sheet pack, which provided both deep pressure and warmth. The sheets trapped your body heat, and you could struggle all you wanted, letting your rage out, without getting free. Greenberg hated the movie they made of her book. Not surprising. They didn't even get the wet-pack right.

  11. 5 out of 5

    J

    This is such a stupid book. I read it in high school and it was one of those books that was so bad I couldn't pry myself from it. It's partly because I'd seen so much mental illness in my own family that gave me such a significant desire to see something somehow more substantial but this effort just feels entirely shallow to me. The therapist was just bad. I mean Bad. BAD. Horrible. What an unhelpful, cold BITCH. I mean, she is portrayed rather heroically but it's rare that I want to reach throu This is such a stupid book. I read it in high school and it was one of those books that was so bad I couldn't pry myself from it. It's partly because I'd seen so much mental illness in my own family that gave me such a significant desire to see something somehow more substantial but this effort just feels entirely shallow to me. The therapist was just bad. I mean Bad. BAD. Horrible. What an unhelpful, cold BITCH. I mean, she is portrayed rather heroically but it's rare that I want to reach through a book and punch someone in the nose. Screw you, fictional characters that are bad at their job! Um..as for the MAIN character she never really connects with the audience in any meaningful way, it's just a mess of her emotions and fears and it doesn't really come into anything I can sink my teeth into. I guess I don't like this book so much because I feel that it's filled with self pity and doesn't include much self reflection. Just reaction and melodrama. Boo hiss, bad fiction altogether but sensational bad fiction that goth teenagers can pore over about how meaningful and how much they can relate yada yada, wake me up when Anne Heche remakes this movie and stars in it. Until then...one star!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laurelina

    I read this book for an undergrad class assignment and I loved it. This book represents the real thoughts of a person diagnosed with Schizophrenia. What I've read is that the author of this book is actually the protagonist of the story. She was a 16 year old dianosed with this degenerative illness that affects the person as well as others around them. She was dianosed when the mere mention of this illness would cause confusion and guilt to parents who thought that somehow they were at fault for I read this book for an undergrad class assignment and I loved it. This book represents the real thoughts of a person diagnosed with Schizophrenia. What I've read is that the author of this book is actually the protagonist of the story. She was a 16 year old dianosed with this degenerative illness that affects the person as well as others around them. She was dianosed when the mere mention of this illness would cause confusion and guilt to parents who thought that somehow they were at fault for their child's "flaws". This book brings insight to those wanting to really, really understand the schizophrenic mind, but also have a glimpse of familial struggles that are as real as the illness itself. Small book, but enough to provide you with insight...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    I read this book in my early twenties and don't remember much about it than its haunting descriptions of the fantasy world of the schizophrenic protagonist. It also resulted in my writing a novelette in Malayalam about a young, gifted woman in an unsatisfying marriage to a dull man, slowly going mad and into her fantasy world. (I lost the manuscript, which was just as well, because the story was totally derivative and cringe-worthy.) Maybe if I read it again, my star rating would go up. In those I read this book in my early twenties and don't remember much about it than its haunting descriptions of the fantasy world of the schizophrenic protagonist. It also resulted in my writing a novelette in Malayalam about a young, gifted woman in an unsatisfying marriage to a dull man, slowly going mad and into her fantasy world. (I lost the manuscript, which was just as well, because the story was totally derivative and cringe-worthy.) Maybe if I read it again, my star rating would go up. In those days, I could appreciate only the god Yr in Deborah's mindscape.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ova - Excuse My Reading

    This was an incredibly difficult read. Beautifully written story of struggles of mental illness, I read this book in my early 20s and I am glad I did as it helped me develop an awareness of these type of issues. This is an upsetting book, although I am glad I read it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    I read this for a Developmental Psychopathology class and ended up really enjoying it. The purpose of the assignment was to examine the state of the science on schizophrenia both at the time of publication (1964) and today, and the ways in which the public's views of schizophrenia may have been shaped through reading this novel. Today as in the 1960s, mental illness carries a highly negative social stigma. Greenberg presents a humanized view of mental illness with a focus on the painful experien I read this for a Developmental Psychopathology class and ended up really enjoying it. The purpose of the assignment was to examine the state of the science on schizophrenia both at the time of publication (1964) and today, and the ways in which the public's views of schizophrenia may have been shaped through reading this novel. Today as in the 1960s, mental illness carries a highly negative social stigma. Greenberg presents a humanized view of mental illness with a focus on the painful experience of a young girl (and her family) living with schizophrenia. In an effort to deal with the harsh realities of a word that has often treated her cruelly, Deborah creates an imagined kingdom that becomes her safe haven. Her parents are caring, but struggle with the shame of their little girl's illness. Her psychotherapist is patient and insightful, never pushing Deborah to reveal more than she is ready. Though many of the treatment methods are outdated, there is insight to be gained from the skillful and empathetic therapy Deborah received. Overall, it's a great personal story of the experience of living with mental illness.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Megan Fermo

    First off, I'll ask you now, judging by the title what did YOU expect? I wasn't expecting any action. No, not in the slightest. but that title...I don't know why but first time I read it ('twas during my mental illness literature phase)I was like, Wow, I'm definitely giving that a go. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden...it's not a special title but there's a little something magnetic about it. Here's the possible tale that ran through my mind. The protagonist (let's call her Anna), who is schizo First off, I'll ask you now, judging by the title what did YOU expect? I wasn't expecting any action. No, not in the slightest. but that title...I don't know why but first time I read it ('twas during my mental illness literature phase)I was like, Wow, I'm definitely giving that a go. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden...it's not a special title but there's a little something magnetic about it. Here's the possible tale that ran through my mind. The protagonist (let's call her Anna), who is schizophrenic, is forced to cooperate with a therapist who's become sort of over the years a jaded woman, tired of this world as much as she is except that she doesn't have what Anna calls her fantasy escape (not an accurate portrayal of schizophrenia, but this novel ain't no expert either). What would happen is that as Anna tries to cement her reality, which isn't exactly perfect, her fantasy becomes almost as dark, closing in on reality and robbing her of her escape. The Rose Garden is what she's looking for, a land of peace, real or not. The climax EMOTIONALLY is when the therapist reaches her peak of frustration (problems at home and with herself) and bursts out, "Look, I never promised you a rose garden--" all she's ever been trying to do is getting Anna "fixed", regardless of Anna's happiness or her fear of getting "fixed". But then this piece of reality only breaks Anna more, and she falls deeper into her dark fantasy, slowly becoming completely incapable of dissecting the real from unreal. Three possible endings: Happy ending: therapist regains her trust in the world and helps Anna, this time with all her heart, to get better and see all the possible good things in the world she would want to be a part of; Bittersweet ending: Therapist quits her job, Anna doesn't get well but now she's finally gone through with her "escape",succeeds, now part of a world she's truly happy in; Plain Sad ending: Anna gets better, because she's not in control of how her mind works, returned into a world she despises, unable to enter her fantasy try as she might because that's just not up to her. (Yes, yes, its basically a mockery of the illness but gimme a break, imagination running high here) Okaaaay I'm a writer and I kind of just had to get that out of the way. I just sort of wanted something like that with this novel. Instead, what the hell? I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is...boring. No, its not even plain boring. Its nothing. Its emotionless, its blank, it leaves absolutely no impression on you at all, its flat, its neither sad nor happy nor tragic or fulfilling. Its...meh. I think that's the worst thing you can say about a novel. There is no...story. There's the idea, little semblance of a plot, but no story. Stuff happens. People cry. Characters talk. More stuff happens. That's it. Two days after finishing it and I don't even remember the protag's name (hence...Anna). Its especially saddening when you think about other great MI novels, The Bell Jar and Girl, Interrupted (which was just...amazing. Movie was horrible though). What do these books have that INPYaRD lacks? For once, actually living, breathing characters. You actually know them. You LOVE them and feel sorry for them and hate them and love 'em. From the side characters to the main. Rose Garden doesn't even let you know who its main are. Sure, you get their names. Sure, you get their backstories. Fine, I get how they're supposed to look like, how wealthy they are, so what? That's not knowing them. I pictured these characters moving to the tune of the novel as actors dutifully playing their parts. Only thing is, novels are different from films in that the don't have the advantage of simply looking sideways or making a face to convey their emotions, or squinting their eyes and crazy mannerisms to establish what they are. You can do that in print but it's not enough. The characters of Rose Garden move, they talk, they do things but despite all tries to bring you closer to them you can't help feeling that there's a glass wall between you and them, and what you're seeing is really a poor-quality reflection of who they really are. But if we're getting technical...it's basically the story of a a sixteen year old girl put into a mental institution by her parents because of a failed suicidal attempt. She has fantasy world called Yrr. A great chunk of the novel is dedicated to the impossibly dull drama of protag's family at home, struggling to keep things normal without her. Its so **** dull I can't help but GAAAAAAAH. She makes friends but like what I said earlier, they're just names. Names and names and names and more names. Names dropped in the middle of the book, names dropped in at the end. The therapist is one of the worst, though. She just randomly spits out German whenever and whatever. Backstory: World War 2 medical drama. One moment she's there, possibly a main, an important character, disappears a good deal, returns, disappears, replaced by some other doctor I don't even remember, returns, disappears. Gosh. She's also the one who title-drops the, well, title. Within the first 100 pages. For something completely out of the blue. Seriously, she just says as protag takes a break from what she was saying, "--Look, I never promised you a rose garden--" But for NO REASON! I kid you not. Since that sentence is, as we all know, the TITLE, I expected it to have the SLIGHTEST meaning to the overall story. But it's really nothing. Bleh. It would've been okay, but after she says it there is absolutely no sort of callback to it. She just...spurts it out and their back to square one (FOR THE REST OF THE BOOK). It's just very sad, cause, written well, this could've joined the ranks of The Bell jar and Girl, Interrupted. But it's not. Writing isn't mindblowingly awful but the style is not just confusing or irritating, its useless. We didn't need the family drama nor the German therapist drama, because by the end they might as well no have been there. The constant switcheroo between POVs EVERY PARAGRAPH just made it all felt so very cold. I'm nit-picking I know I am, but this book has just been such an epic fail. I had hopes and I kid you not I was genuinely excited (excitement generated 70% by the title yeah, but whatever). But here's the overall thing you coulda gathered from this review: Whatever you expected from this novel, it ain't it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I was surprised by this book. I knew that it was about a young girl with mental illness, but I didn't expect it to feel so real or myself to feel so connected to Deborah. I somehow forgot that the story was being told about Deborah rather than by her. Every time I remembered, it was jarring in a way. That's the skill of Greenberg because the reader inhabits Deborah's thoughts then is forced out of them when the narrative switches to Dr. Fried's point of view or to Jacob and Esther's point of vie I was surprised by this book. I knew that it was about a young girl with mental illness, but I didn't expect it to feel so real or myself to feel so connected to Deborah. I somehow forgot that the story was being told about Deborah rather than by her. Every time I remembered, it was jarring in a way. That's the skill of Greenberg because the reader inhabits Deborah's thoughts then is forced out of them when the narrative switches to Dr. Fried's point of view or to Jacob and Esther's point of view. This simulates Deborah's illness, of course, her inhabiting two worlds and being forced into and out of Earth and Yr depending on the situation. Sometimes, the actions and dialogue aren't perfectly clear, but that's part of the disorienting nature of writing a narrative that mimics the thoughts of a person with mental illness. It's part of the skill that Greenberg has as a novelist, the beautiful language that she employs to convey both the world and the mental landscapes of Deborah and those around her. The story itself is interesting because it's rare to get an insight into the reasons behind a person's illness and to really understand why a person can become schizophrenic. I like the conversations between Deborah and Dr. Fried as they reveal the depth of Deborah's illness but also the hope that she still maintains despite everything she's been through. The scenes on the D Ward are vivid and definitely give the reader an idea of how mental patients lived and were treated during the mid twentieth century. It's obvious that Greenberg knew and understood mental illness from her own experiences. This edition of the book includes an Afterword by Greenberg herself, in which she explains her own illness and her return to the world after being cured. It's sad that schizophrenia is considered incurable now, even though Greenberg's cure mostly involved talking to a psychiatrist. She says that she doesn't know how she got cured just that she did. Like Deborah, she worked her way through the causes of her illness and managed to overcome and return to the world, although the process wasn't easy for her. The best part of this book is the journey. In the beginning, Jacob and Esther are dropping their daughter off at a mental hospital, and the reader doesn't know why. Then, slowly, we are introduced to Deborah and to both of her worlds. Then, we begin to understand, mostly through her conversations with Dr. Fried, why Deborah is sick. Finally, we see the progress that Deborah makes and the way it impacts everyone around her. It's an evident move forward, although it doesn't always feel like one to the characters or to the reader. Now, just a small paragraph on Dr. Fried. What a lovely character. She is complex and has her own story, her own sadness, and her own trials. She manages to set them aside yet also use them to help Deborah. She is loving and patient, and she is an example of what every psychiatrist/therapist should be. The parts that include her are small, but her role in the story is immense. The ending is somewhat ambiguous. Greenberg wrote in the Afterword that people approached her and formulated their own endings for Deborah. The novel allows for that because it doesn't give the reader a concrete ending. That's okay, though, because over the course of the novel, the reader can determine where the story will go on her own based on the progress and the setbacks that Deborah makes. I appreciate that after reading this book, I understand schizophrenia much better than I ever did, the reasons for it, the way that the patient herself feels, the pain that she suffers when being forced to interact with the world, and the trials she endures in the hospitals and in her own mind. I'm grateful to Greenberg for feeling brave enough to share a fictionalized version of her story. I recommend this book to anyone that has suffered through a mental illness or known someone that has and to anyone looking for a good story told realistically and beautifully.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    I picked up this book (as well as Ayn Rand's book Anthem) when I was 14 years old and my brother was dying. I will never forget what a profound effect this book had on me. I needed to escape from reality and there was truly no better escape than to the world of a schizophrenic teenager who was struggling to get well. Rereading it as an adult, I was struck by several things. First, I had to laugh at myself because when I found out the main character (the teen/young adult with schizophrenia) went I picked up this book (as well as Ayn Rand's book Anthem) when I was 14 years old and my brother was dying. I will never forget what a profound effect this book had on me. I needed to escape from reality and there was truly no better escape than to the world of a schizophrenic teenager who was struggling to get well. Rereading it as an adult, I was struck by several things. First, I had to laugh at myself because when I found out the main character (the teen/young adult with schizophrenia) went by the name of Deborah, I was shocked. I was very certain her name had been something deep and mysterious, like Tapu, Desdemona, or Ophelia. Second, I cannot believe I comprehended this book back then. I had never known anyone with schizophrenia but was so easily able to live, really live, in the world created by the author. I remember spending hours, and I literally mean hours, a day imagining Deborah's existence and existences similar to what I had read. More than being captivated by a story, this book grew an empathy inside me for anyone who had to deal with a mental illness. I know Greenberg has video interviews about her own experience. At some point I would like to watch them to see just how close her main character's experiences were to her own. When I think about this book compared to things that were written much later, when some of the stigma had at least blunted a bit, I see just how brave it was for Greenberg, even under a pen name, to write this account of her mental illness. What a gift this account has been to the world and to the many people who have had to deal with this issue. I read that Greenberg has been off meds for 50 years and has not had any schizophrenic episodes. Having studied neuroscience since I first read this book, I am extremely interested in how, given all the difficulties with the meds for this disorder, Greenberg was able to get well and get off the drugs that most people cannot free themselves from (lest they have a terrible relapse). This book really held up and was a real pleasure to revisit.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mona

    I read this too long ago to really review it properly. I do remember it being a favorite book when I was young and troubled.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sonia Gomes

    What tips us over the edge? Who knows what experiences each one of us hides in our hearts or the scars of our mind. What makes us shut the world that has been so terrible to us? What makes us say I just cannot go on; I need to shut myself in a protective cocoon. The reasons are varied and many, they could be social or cultural. But one thing for sure, we want to get out of this life, we could commit suicide and many do that. The rest of us, just tune off this World, this life, and wrap ourselves i What tips us over the edge? Who knows what experiences each one of us hides in our hearts or the scars of our mind. What makes us shut the world that has been so terrible to us? What makes us say I just cannot go on; I need to shut myself in a protective cocoon. The reasons are varied and many, they could be social or cultural. But one thing for sure, we want to get out of this life, we could commit suicide and many do that. The rest of us, just tune off this World, this life, and wrap ourselves in a protective wrap and we do not feel the need to follow the general prescribed norms of Society. We have had a nervous breakdown or we are mad. Everyone looks down on us with pity mingled with disgust. ‘Why can’t she take hold of herself, she brought it on herself,’ everyone has an opinion but rarely does anyone have the respect for this terrible illness as one would have for say cancer. Sadly between the sane and the mentally troubled the line is very, fine. My brave friend, still battles it, even in her darkest moments she held on to a job, paid the mortgage of her house that her estranged husband now occupies! Irony of fate, yes, that's life I suppose. It is a long, long difficult road, with not much respect from people around, all I can do is admire the grit and determination with which people travel this arduous road.

  21. 5 out of 5

    The Goon

    "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," is a beautiful book based on a true story. Knowing that this is a retelling of the authors own experience as a sufferer of mental illness lends credibility to all aspects of the tale. Contrary to the current belief that most metal illnesses are life long diseases that forever need managing, it's amazing to discover that there are people who have recovered from schizophrenia--the most frightening mental illness of all. Not only that, but the details provided "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," is a beautiful book based on a true story. Knowing that this is a retelling of the authors own experience as a sufferer of mental illness lends credibility to all aspects of the tale. Contrary to the current belief that most metal illnesses are life long diseases that forever need managing, it's amazing to discover that there are people who have recovered from schizophrenia--the most frightening mental illness of all. Not only that, but the details provided in this book of how a schizophrenic might construct their mental landscape are fascinating. This book offers insight into the potential world of a mentally ill person, and it allows for more compassion and understanding toward those with mental illness. The book itself is well written, and the therapist who tends to the protagonist lends a warmth and wisdom that enlightens the reader, pointing out aspects of health and sanity that pertain to us all. I looked the book's author, Joanne Greenberg, up on Youtube and I found a documentary about her recovery from schizophrenia called, "Take These Broken Wings." I couldn't find the whole documentary posted on Youtube, but I guess it's listed at www.iraresoul.com I've also watched the movie, "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," on YouTube, and while the movie was enjoyable, I must say the book offers a depth of understanding and subtly that the movie does not.I think "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," should be required reading for anyone interested in entering the metal health field. If nothing else, at least watch the movie.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Samantha C

    The thing that is so wrong about being mentally ill is the terrible price you have to pay for survival. - p. 63 The people on the edge of Hell were most afraid of the devil; for those already in hell the devil was only another and no one in particular. - p. 72 There are other deaths than death -- worse ones. - p. 73 The boredom of insanity was a great desert, so great that anyone's violence or agony seemed an oasis, and the brief simple moments of companionship seemed like a rain in the desert that The thing that is so wrong about being mentally ill is the terrible price you have to pay for survival. - p. 63 The people on the edge of Hell were most afraid of the devil; for those already in hell the devil was only another and no one in particular. - p. 72 There are other deaths than death -- worse ones. - p. 73 The boredom of insanity was a great desert, so great that anyone's violence or agony seemed an oasis, and the brief simple moments of companionship seemed like a rain in the desert that was numbered and counted and remembered long after it was gone. - p. 79 A nut is someone whose noose broke, for they had all wanted to kill themselves, they had all tried suicide more or less diligently, and they all envied the dead. - p. 86 Your own basic knowledge of yourself and truth is sound. Believe in it. - p. 97 .. the symptoms are not the sickness .. these symptoms are defenses and shields .. her sickness is the only solid ground she has .. - p. 109 A hard proof, but a valid one, time. - p. 137 Darkness and pains and hard fear and mindlessness, and yet your heart is still going and your pulse still makes you a part of the census. - p. 140

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    There were so many big words in this book, but i got through it and i was satisfied with the ending. It's about the three years a teenage girl, Deborah, spends at an asylum. Throughout the book, she constantly retreats to an imaginary world that she created to block out what she couldn't accept in the real world. Her time at the asylum wasn't at all bad because she made new friends and those were the only true friends she ever had. I think the friendship she built at the time gave her a reason t There were so many big words in this book, but i got through it and i was satisfied with the ending. It's about the three years a teenage girl, Deborah, spends at an asylum. Throughout the book, she constantly retreats to an imaginary world that she created to block out what she couldn't accept in the real world. Her time at the asylum wasn't at all bad because she made new friends and those were the only true friends she ever had. I think the friendship she built at the time gave her a reason to focus on the real world and it helped with her recovery. Some day I'll probably reread this book and maybe i'll get a better understanding of everything that was happening.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Senninger

    I Never Promised You a Rose Garden throws the reader head first into the dark, confusing, and maddening world of schizophrenia. The author wrote it partially autobiographically and I want to recognize how valuable that is- to get the perspective from someone who has actually experienced it. However, this book was just plain boring. I thought it had a lot of potential, I kept assuming it would get interesting, but it never did. Even the things that should be interesting weren't interesting! I'm s I Never Promised You a Rose Garden throws the reader head first into the dark, confusing, and maddening world of schizophrenia. The author wrote it partially autobiographically and I want to recognize how valuable that is- to get the perspective from someone who has actually experienced it. However, this book was just plain boring. I thought it had a lot of potential, I kept assuming it would get interesting, but it never did. Even the things that should be interesting weren't interesting! I'm sure the dullness is some sort of metaphor for the world of grey Deborah lives in, it just doesn't make for a very good read. This book needs a Nurse Rachet character to stir things up and get the pages turning. This book has value because it discusses one of the most misunderstood and socially stigmatized mental illnesses and I don't want to discredit that. But that alone can't save this book. The only reason I got through it was because it was for a bookclub and I was quite glad to be done with it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mrs Lecter

    i first read this when i was a teenager and dealing with my own mental illness. i remember being able to relate to a lot and finding a great deal of comfort in it. reading it again years later has been an amazing experience. it is still a fantastic book. i got my edition (with a different cover) years ago for 30p! what a bargain 💜

  26. 5 out of 5

    AJ

    An interesting book, and quite good. However it's definitely a product of its time. I dislike the implications that mental illness can be caused by an individual or hir parents, and that it is only a matter of willpower to overcome it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marythios (AkaSusanne )

    Joanne Greenberg was hospitalized for schizophrenia from 1948 to 1951. This story was told with the character Debra which follows the life of Greenberg. This is the time period before the introduction of the pharmaceuticals which is what is used for psychiatry today. It was after the craze for lobotomies and shock treatments. She was lucky to be treated by a psychiatrist who was compassionate and perceptive, and firmly believed that schizophrenia is curable, despite conventional wisdom. An asylum Joanne Greenberg was hospitalized for schizophrenia from 1948 to 1951. This story was told with the character Debra which follows the life of Greenberg. This is the time period before the introduction of the pharmaceuticals which is what is used for psychiatry today. It was after the craze for lobotomies and shock treatments. She was lucky to be treated by a psychiatrist who was compassionate and perceptive, and firmly believed that schizophrenia is curable, despite conventional wisdom. An asylum was a place where you could safely go mad, without harming yourself or anyone else. Debra is delighted by the discovery, after she is transferred to the "disturbed" ward, that she no longer has to keep up a semblance of sanity. The maintenance of that pseudo-sanity was only making her crazier. If Debra lost control, she could count on being put into the embrace of a wet sheet pack, which provided both deep pressure and warmth. The sheets trapped your body heat, and you could struggle all you wanted, letting your rage out, without getting free. I liked the story because it was Joanne Greenberg's lived experience. What I think is still wrong with psychiatry today as it was back then is that they do not understand the mind and being able to diagnose correctly. The brain is not fully understood at all and mental illness takes place in the brain. The treatments of the past and today have had little impact for the masses. People are still suffering and some of them have more problems then they had before there mental illness. I do think that a compassionate approach with less invasive treatment is the best way to approach it does the least amount of additional harm.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Romina Claudia

    Although u cannot treat schizophrenia with psychotherapy only, this book does give u an insight into the psychotic world of a patient, valuable for practitioners as for people that want to understand the psychiatric patients. An easy read and pleasant book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    Any book that doesn’t see psychosis as a chemical imbalance or an incomprehensible madness that can only be kept under control with high doses of spirit destroying drugs is to be supported. ‘Rose Garden’, dealing with the illness, hospitalization, and ‘cure’ of a young girl seen through the eyes of the patient herself, is one such book. For that reason I support it. I read it in my teens and it had a profound effect on me. This time I was less enthusiastic. I have misgivings, both about the infe Any book that doesn’t see psychosis as a chemical imbalance or an incomprehensible madness that can only be kept under control with high doses of spirit destroying drugs is to be supported. ‘Rose Garden’, dealing with the illness, hospitalization, and ‘cure’ of a young girl seen through the eyes of the patient herself, is one such book. For that reason I support it. I read it in my teens and it had a profound effect on me. This time I was less enthusiastic. I have misgivings, both about the inferred causes and the lauded ‘treatment’, but still think it is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in this area.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Helynne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Of the many stories about young girls plunged into the depths of mental illness, I have found this one to be particularly interesting (and it is autobiographical). Deborah Blau lives in a frightening world that she has created in her own mind that consists of characters who eventually turn evil and begin to torment her. When her parents finally become resigned to commiting Deborah to a mental institution, her situation becomes worse before it gets better. As a child, she suffered from a urinary Of the many stories about young girls plunged into the depths of mental illness, I have found this one to be particularly interesting (and it is autobiographical). Deborah Blau lives in a frightening world that she has created in her own mind that consists of characters who eventually turn evil and begin to torment her. When her parents finally become resigned to commiting Deborah to a mental institution, her situation becomes worse before it gets better. As a child, she suffered from a urinary tumor, and although she is cured, the "tumor" still stabs within her, causing unbearable pain. Conversely, she is able to cut herself and burn herself with cigarattes while feeling no pain at all. The book focuses on Deborah's daily life in the mental institution, surrounded by other girls, some of whom are even more disturbed than she is. I apologize for the spoiler, but I want to emphasize that Deborah's troubling story does end on a hopeful note. With the help of a dedicated female psychiatrist, Deborah is able slowly to come out of her delusions and head toward a more normal life. (But what a lot of suffering along the way!) I love the scene at the end, when Deborah glaces at a book of illustrations of Milton's Paradise Lost and realizes that one of the most evil and manipulative characters who formerly tormented her in her mind was neither real nor even original. Milton had thought him up centuries earlier, and Deborah had inadvertently borrowed him and allowed him take on an imagined power. The sense of freedom that permeates the final pages of the story is gratityfying. If only every troubled teen could have an ending like this.

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