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Reviewed by Grace Masso for Readers' Favorite
Losing the Atmosphere: A Baffling Disorder, A Search for Help, and the Therapist Who Understood by Vivian Conan documents the author's experience with mental illness and her journey to wholeness with forensic detail. In this gripping memoir, Conan shares her journey as she struggled with a complex mental illness that was not properly diagnosed many times. Born in 1942, she grew up in Brooklyn with her mother, an elementary school teacher, and her abusive father. Her mother’s emotional rage didn’t make life any easier than the presence of an abusive father. Life seemed normal in school, surrounded by friends, but at home, young Vivian found herself in an imaginary world where she spoke to people who weren’t there. By the time she started high school, she knew she had a serious problem. This memoir takes readers on her journey toward wholeness and the unexpected turn her life took when she finally met a therapist who properly diagnosed her condition.
Vivian Conan’s memoir is a compelling story of struggle and one that lasted for decades. While it is the story of one woman’s journey toward understanding her mental pain, it also celebrates the therapist who paid attention and uncovered her underlying condition. The writing is gorgeous, and from providing strong family background information to describing the unique world of escape Vivian created for herself, a world she calls the “Atmosphere,” to the deep void she felt within her soul, the voice is strong and intimate, pulling the reader in with its spell. The descriptions are not just apt but detailed and compelling, taking the reader into the author’s inner world and allowing them to determine the point at which reality gives way to fantasy. Losing the Atmosphere is not only a story of mental illness and healing, but one that shines a light on the author’s quest for a strong human connection.
The narrative voice of this audiobook was hypnotic. Cassandra Campbell captures the emotional intensity of the story without losing anything in the lyrical quality of the prose. She allows the drama and the dialogues to come out clearly through the narrative. The voice is clear and the recording professionally rendered.