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Hillbilly Gothic

Hillbilly Gothic

A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood

  • reading group guide
"My family has a grand tradition. After a woman gives birth, she goes mad. I thought that I would be the one to escape."

So begins Adrienne Martini's candid, compelling, and darkly humorous history of her family's and her own experiences with depression and postpartum syndrome.

Illuminating depression from the inside, Martini delves unflinchingly into her own breakdown and institutionalization and traces the multigenerational course of this devastating problem. Moving back and forth between characters and situations, she vividly portrays the isolation -- geographical and metaphorical -- of the Appalachia of her forebears and the Western Pennsylvania region where she grew up. She also weaves in the stories of other women, both contemporary and historic, who have dealt with postpartum depression in all its guises, from fleeting "baby blues" to full-blown psychosis.

Serious as her subject is, Martini's narrative is unfailingly engaging and filled with witty, wry observations on the complications of new motherhood: "It's like getting the best Christmas gift ever, but Santa decided to kick the crap out of you before you unwrapped it." New mothers and those who have struggled with parenthood -- whether or not they dealt with depression -- will find affirmation in this story of triumph, of escape from a difficult legacy, of hope for others, and of the courage to have another baby.
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  • Atria Books | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743293532 | 
  • June 2006
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Reading Group Guide

Summary:
Hillbilly Gothic is a personal memoir that also tells the history of a family and of their roots in the Appalachian region. It's remarkable for the keen sense of emotional and geographic isolation it portrays. Adrienne Martini presents her own experiences with depression, postpartum syndrome, and institutionalization triggered by pregnancy and childbirth, and traces the multigenerational history of this devastating problem through the women in her family. Martini also weaves in the stories of other women, both contemporary and historic, who have dealt with postpartum depression, psychosis, and the "baby blues." Maintaining an indelible sense of humor throughout, Martini ultimately conveys a story of triumph, of escape from a difficult legacy, of hope for others, and of the courage to have another baby.

Questions for discussion:
1. Martini begins her book with two quotes:
"Left my home in the valley
put the mountains to my back
there's nothing wrong with where I come from
Sometimes it's meant to be just that."
-- Scott Miller, Cross the Line
"As for me, I've chosen to follow a simple course:
Come clean. And wherever possible, live your life
in a way that won't leave you tempted to lie. Failing
that, I'd rather be disliked for who I truly am than
loved for who I am not. So, I tell my story. I write
it down. I even publish it. Sometimes this is a
humbling experience. Sometimes see more

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About the Author

Adrienne Martini
Photo Credit:

Adrienne Martini

Adrienne Martini, a former editor for Knoxville, Tennessee's Metro Pulse, is an award-winning freelance writer and college teacher.  Author of Hillbilly Gothic, she lives in Oneonta, New York, with her husband, Scott, and children, Maddy and Cory.

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