Review: “The Mythical Bill” By Jody McAuliffe


University Of Iowa Press was kind enough to provide me with a copy of this eGalley through NetGalley for the purposes of reading and review it. Although it was provided at no cost to me, I am under no obligation to give a positive review.

In this book, the author tells the story of her father, William “Bill” McAuliffe, and his battle with mental illness. While it seems to begin with torticollis, a disease which involves involuntary contraction of neck muscles, causing the head to be held at an unusual angle, the author digs pretty heavily into who her father was both before and after World War II, where he served in the Pacific Theater.

Along the way, we are exposed to a heart-breaking history of a man who slowly declined in health, both physically and mentally, before dying unexpectedly on the psychiatric ward of a hospital in the seventies. The author pulls no punches in her analysis of her father, herself and her immediate family. Her narrative is broken up by diary entries from Bill himself as well as memories from her mother, brothers, and other family members.

Ms. McAuliffe makes many literary and film parallels between those works and her and her father’s lives. She even notes her penchant for being involved in theater productions with a male protagonist or character with demons not unlike her father’s.

And so the book proceeds, with the author delving deeper and deeper into her research on her father, his past, and even herself and who she is. Is she destined to be like her father? Or will she be her own person?

This book is very introspective and informational, and as such I learned much about torticollis and Bill’s battle with it. It’s also very open and honest in all regards. In that, I think the author succeeded marvelously.

My only issue with the book is that at times it seemed too disjointed. While it’s not a long book (about 160 pages), it took me longer to get through than a typical book of that size would. It just didn’t flow as I would have liked it to. Otherwise, I think it’s a very heartfelt story by the author.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

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