Audiobook: Smoking Cigarettes and Broken Glass By Annita Perez Sawyer

4 February 2017

Annita Sawyer's memoir is a harrowing, heroic, and redeeming story of her battle with mental illness, and her triumph in overcoming it. 

In 1960, as a suicidal teenager, Sawyer was institutionalized, misdiagnosed, and suffered through 89 electroshock treatments before being transferred, labeled as "unimproved". The damage done has haunted her life. Discharged in 1966, after finally receiving proper psychiatric care, Sawyer kept her past secret and moved on to graduate from Yale University, raise two children, and become a respected psychotherapist. 

That is, until 2001, when she reviewed her hospital records and began to remember a broken childhood and the even more broken mental health system of the 1950s and 1960s, Revisiting scenes from her childhood and assembling the pieces of a lost puzzle, her autobiography is a cautionary tale of careless psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, both 50 years ago and today.

It is an informative story about understanding PTSD and making emotional sense of events that can lead a soul to darkness. Most of all, it's a story of perseverance: pain, acceptance, healing, hope, and success. Hers is a unique voice for this generation, shedding light on an often misunderstood illness.


A fantastically intriguing book!  Initially I questioned whether I would enjoy this book; however, within moments of reading the story - I was hooked!  A fascinating insight into the treatment of mental health issues in the 1960's, this book is both harrowing and captivating as the narration leads you from the point of admission through the process of treatment and in to recovery.  Some of the methods used were more successful than others and some of those appear, against today's standards, traumatising and medieval.

As the story gathers pace and the author begins to explore her forgotten memories, the disturbing truth emerges and draws the reader even further in to the book.

The book is beautifully written and has transferred well in to an audio book, well produced and well narrated.  I listened to the book whilst commuting and when arriving at my destination found myself remaining in the car that little bit longer to find out how the chapter ends or how the situation unfolds further.

Although a dark subject, this book was joyous to read and gave me a new appreciation for those suffering with mental illness.

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