Review: The Family Silver: A Memoir of Depression and Inheritance by Sharon O’Brien

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The Family Silver: A Memoir of Depression and Inheritance follows the author Sharon O’Brien on her quest to discover the familial roots of her depression.  Divided into three parts, the memoir focuses on the author’s parents and distant family members, her own struggle with the illness, and concludes with her reflections.

The death of O’Brien’s mother and the completion of a major writing project sink O’Brien into depression.   Identifying the illness as something she saw in her family as a child prompts her to move to Boston for a year to investigate the beginnings of her family’s battle with depression.   O’Brien visits childhood summer vacation spots and speaks with friends of deceased family members to locate the ultimate cause of this unwanted family inheritance.  The narrative shifts between the author’s current struggle with depression and her memories of her family’s interactions.

Readers unlucky enough to deal with depression themselves will appreciate O’Brien’s honest and poignant descriptions of its effect on her personal and professional life.  At times the detailed accounts of distant Irish family history bog down the story. However, O’Brien intertwines the legacy of a silver dining set that symbolizes the dysfunctional family dynamics that led to their shared experience of depression.

Part memoir, part biography, The Family Silver wouldn’t be my suggested beach read for the coming summer.  However, I would recommend it to anyone who has felt alone in his or her struggle against depression.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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