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"After the Barn is a gripping story of how a family deals with tragedy, and with secrets. But it is also a testament to the bravery inherent in seeking the clues to one's intimate past." – Daniel Okrent, first public editor of the New York Times and author of Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center and Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.
“Richard Pollak, in his irresistible and affecting memoir, takes us on an odyssey in which we discover how tragedy extends far beyond the event itself to a lifetime of aftermath, of ripplings and reverberations hiding and appearing in unlikely and astonishing places. This is a beautiful book.” – Jenny McPhee, author of the novels A Man of No Moon, No Ordinary Matter and The Center of Things.
Richard Pollak is the author of the books at right and the memoir After the Barn, recently published as an e-book and in paperback. It begins on a hot August day, when the author, then fourteen, angrily shouted down to his parents, “Tell him you’ll punish him if he doesn’t stop hiding!” Moments later he was sucked into a maelstrom of straw. He has no memory of how he managed to extricate himself and get down from the loft, or of anything else on that fateful Saturday, when his 11-year-old mentally disturbed brother, with whom he had been playing hide-and-seek in the barn, slipped through the same hole and fell thirty-five feet to his death. Only a few months later, the author lost consciousness and also fell: down a flight of stairs, awakening to learn that he suffered from the “falling sickness,” epilepsy. Twenty-five years on, he was still coping with the unnerving disorder and the depressive side effects of anticonvulsant medication, when his mother fell through a hole and nearly died much as his brother had. After the Barn is a compelling account of this traumatic family history, at once a penetrating exploration of the medical, psychological and literary worlds of epilepsy, mental illness, and early death, and a deeply personal rumination on grief, sibling guilt, and the elusiveness of memory.
The veteran Chicago journalists Michael Miner was so struck by After the Barn that he devoted two columns to the book, the first tracing Pollak’s sometimes harrowing tale, the second describing the road the author took to publication. The link to his pieces is at left.
To read the first two chapters of the memoir, click the top link at left, where you also can purchase the Kindle e-book. You may also purchase the paperback edition and other e-book versions at left.
Listen to opening pages (9.4MB)
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