I first read The Quiet Room soon after it was published in 1994, now 25 years ago. It has been released as an audiobook in 2018, performed by Brittany Pressley, Gregory Abbey and Cheryl Smith. Listening to it now, it is notably a product of its time and place, and being more familiar with both the places it talks about and the problems it discusses, I found it a curious experience to go through the story again.
Schiller is from a wealthy family who when she was a child moved to the exclusive suburb in Scarsdale in Westchester, New York an easy commute to Manhattan. She went to summer camp in the Catskills. Her father was not from money, being from the Bronx, but he had done well in school and had a PhD in Psychology. Her mother's Michigan family was rich, and her mother stayed home to look after the children. In 1976, when Schiller was 17 she started developing bizarre behavior at camp and was sent home. Her perception of reality became increasingly distorted and she started hearing voices. Her problems got worse when she was in college and in her twenties. She attempted suicide. She was hospitalized and had shifting diagnoses from different doctors. She took lots of different medications. She finally started taking clozapine when it was being tested, to be finally approved by the FDA in 1989. It has been touted as a miracle drug for the treatment of schizophrenia, and Schiller says it is the main reason she achieved stability.
Her treatment which also included other medications and psychotherapy did eventually work for her, and in a 2011 Afterword to the book she explains that after the publication of The Quiet Room she started working for pharmaceutical company Sandoz, the manufacturer of Clozaril, the trade name of her medication. She promoted the drug for them until it became available in a generic version. She moved to Florida and worked in the mental health industry. She had her ups and downs, including a problem with drug abuse. But she found help through Narcotics Anonymous and got clean. She married in her forties and works as peer specialist. She continues to take a lot of medication for her mental illness.
One of the curious aspects of The Quiet Room is that while most of it is written from Schiller's perspective, there are also chapters written from the perspective of other people in her life, especially her father. There are also medical notes. It isn't clear to what extent these are genuine or fabrications, which is disconcerting. But it is an effective way of telling her story and giving some kind of apparent reality-checking about her own take on what was happening and making the story more three-dimensional. Schiller is a good writer with the help of co-writer Amanda Bennett and the story in engrossing. The unabridged audiobook is performed by three people and it is nicely produced.
© 2019 Christian Perring
Christian Perring teaches in NYC.