Books: The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut

The Eden Express is a book by Mark Vonnegut, who will likely be forever known as “Kurt Vonnegut’s son”. I admit, that’s why I read it, too, and while it is – as I expected – not at all like a Kurt Vonnegut book, it is still well-written, interesting and has a point.

The book starts with Mark talking about how he just graduated from college (in 1969) and was trying to figure out what to do next. He was a hippie and entertained the thought of starting a commune with some friends. So they did. They moved up to British Columbia and bought some property miles and miles away from civilization. It all goes well, until Mark suddenly (or not so suddenly) becomes mentally ill and needs to go to a mental institution. He’s schizophrenic.

I very much liked the part where he described how they set up the commune and how people came and went and so on, but the important part of the book is his description of his mental illness, of the symptoms, of how he thought he had caused an earthquake in California, how he thought losing at a chess game would mean all of humanity was going to die, etc. It’s very interesting to read about his “insanity” from the inside, to see what it means to suffer from mental illness. His Wikipedia article states (albeit without actually giving any sources):

The book is widely cited as useful for those coping with schizophrenia.

Also interesting for Kurt Vonnegut fans is the occasional mention of Mark’s father, but he is never the center of the story and only appears as a side character.

The impressive thing about Mark’s story is that he eventually overcame his mental illness, he’s dealing well with it now, and he went back to college to become a pediatrician. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

[The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut ** Read in 11 days ** 7 Jan 2009 – 17 Jan 2009]

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