This Close to Happy
by Daphne Merkin
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Depression affects 350 million people worldwide. Daphne Merkin is one of them. First hospitalised for psychiatric evaluation at the age of eight, she lives with a black dog as her constant companion. Sometimes suicide looks alluring, and she tells her therapist, “I have never wanted to be here.” Medication may dull her impulses but at the same time she doesn’t wish to forget what has made her who she is. One of six children born to wealthy parents who were Orthodox Jews, she recalls a father preoccupied with work and a cold, detached mother who seemed to delight in denying her children affection (food, too), and thrust on them a violent nanny. Merkin’s quiet fury seeps through her writing, as does her desire to understand better the causes of her darkness. One day, she writes, brain scans will “be able to create 3D images of the landscape of despair”. For now, however, reading, medication and therapy plug the psychic holes. Merkin wrote This Close to Happy to help document what clinical depression feels like “from the inside”. She should have a wide audience.