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Review of "Lithium for Medea"

By Kate Braverman
Seven Stories Press, 1979
Review by Courtney Young on Oct 31st 2002
Lithium for Medea

            It is truly amazing for an author to write a novel inherently dark and depressing by nature, yet so poetic and insightful that we at times feel a calm in its balance.  Kate Braverman presents a tale in Lithium for Medea about a profoundly dysfunctional family, drug abuse, death, and loveless sex as experienced by the main character Rose.  We also get a glimpse into the ever tense love-hate relationship between mothers and daughters; who when rebelling against each other are only becoming more alike.

            In an almost disturbing way Rose has the ability to keep parts of her life completely separate from one another.  She is dealing with her father’s battle with cancer, but never tells her “boyfriend” about the pain she’s in or even that her father is sick.  “I thought of my father battling for his life.  Jason was staring at me.  And I knew there could be no connection between my parallel worlds.  All was ordered and mutually exclusive.  The pathways were as a surgeon’s incision.  The roads would never intersect, no matter the gravity, no matter the pull into the dark center, the cruel underbelly where I lived and watched the worlds churn while stars clawed my face, floors dissolved and nothing was solid.”  How lonely.

            Throughout this book there are abrupt shifts to moments in her childhood.  The actions of her parents, and the events that took place during that time clarify the present and forever resonate in Rose’s head.  Rose’s mother Francine is clearly disturbed, but during these flashbacks we get glimpses of her being a caring wife and loving mother.  Qualities that were drained from her the first time her husband battled cancer.  This novel takes place over the course of a few months, but by the end it feels as if we have been traveling with these characters over the course of years.

            When we first meet Rose she is perhaps at one of the lowest points in her life.  Heroin consumes her thoughts, and shooting a needle in her arm has replaced any previously held goals or dreams.  The major turning point in Francine’s life came when her husband faced his first battle with cancer.  Rose reaches hers when her father is struggling against its recurrence.  We can all relate to these life altering situations.  Rose decides she must change the path she has been essentially losing herself in.  Perhaps we can learn something from her, and her awakening.  This book is written in a richly unique way and deserves attention.


© 2002 Courtney F. Young


Courtney Young recently graduated from Dowling College, Long Island, NY majoring in Fine Arts and minoring in Philosophy.  While planning her next step, she maintains her mental health by surfing.