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Review: January First

September 21, 2012

January Schofield has been difficult since the day she was born – she only slept for short periods of time, required constant stimulation, and had a vivid imagination.  Sure she was exceptional, her parents had her tested and discovered she has an IQ of 146.  Caring for her was an exhausting job requiring the full attention of both of her parents.

Jani’s parents decidedto have another child because Jani wanted them to and they thought it might help her, but she didn’t react well to the new baby.  She would fly into a rage and threaten to harm him whenever Bodhi cried.  Jani wasn’t socializing well, had difficulty in school, and when her imaginary friends seem to take over her life, her parents decided they needed help with her.  Most of the people they approached dismissed them, but they finally find a hospital that really listened and, at six years old, Jani was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  That diagnosis would tear many families apart, but the Schofields are doing everything they can to keep their family together.

January First, by Michael Schofield is the story of the nightmare the family has gone through in caring for Jani and getting her diagnosis and what they’re doing to try to cope with it.  I have to admit that I felt a range of emotions as I read this book, and my feelings toward it are different from most.

It seemed to me that the book was as much about Michael as it was about Jani.  He was obsessed with her IQ and seemed to think the world should make concessions for her.  He never mentioned disciplining her, but rather distracted her or removed her from situations when she misbehaved.  It seemed to me that he was very possessive of her – he didn’t think his wife could care for her as well as he could.  He also mentioned very briefly that he shook her as an infant, but that was glossed over.  Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how that affected Jani.

There is no doubt that Jani was a difficult child and I don’t mean to be judgmental because I have no idea how I would cope with a child as strong willed and trying as she was and I know that a book can’t ever give you the whole story in a situation like this.  As they were trying to cope, the Schofields realized they each had someone with schizophrenia in their families and began to suspect that Jani suffered from it as well.  It seemed to me that they took her to different doctors and hospitals until they found one that agreed with their diagnosis.

I finished the book with a range of emotions – admiration for all the Schofields have done to keep their daughter at home mixed with doubts of the diagnosis.  I must say, though, that there’s no way around it – this book is just downright fascinating and I found it compelling.  I listened to the audio version and always wanted to hear more – I found myself doing more housework or walking just a little bit farther so I could listen longer.  I also found the need to talk about the book as I listened and, since I knew she’d already read it, I probably drove Julie of Booking Mama crazy with my messages.  I do think this book would be a great book club pick, because we found a lot to talk about!

The audio version of January First is read by Patrick Lawlor and he does an outstanding job – I’m sure his narration just added to the compelling nature of the book.  The audio book lasts approximately eight and a half hours.

Review copy provided by Tantor Audio.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
33 Comments leave one →
  1. bookingmama permalink
    September 21, 2012 6:35 am

    I know exactly what you mean about this book. It’s hard to judge and my heart goes out to the entire family, but lots of things just didn’t sit quite right with me either. At least it would make a great book club pick because of the controversy.

  2. September 21, 2012 6:55 am

    I read this one as well and thought it was pretty fascinating, but I did have some issues with at least the dad.

  3. sandynawrot permalink
    September 21, 2012 7:03 am

    When I read Julie’s review of this, I hadn’t realized it was a true story! Holy cow. I can’t wait to listen to it. I had an uncle who had schizophrenia and was in an institution for his entire adult life. The toll that keeping this girl home must have been an incredibly difficult thing.

  4. September 21, 2012 7:57 am

    I’m not sure this book is for me, but it sounds like this one made you think and feel beyond the pages. Great review!

  5. September 21, 2012 9:39 am

    I think when there is something wrong with your child, there is comfort in just getting a diagnosis, so if they sought out someone who agreed with theirs, I can totally relate to that. It’s not right, but in their mind, it’s progress.

    I do know that in a similar situation, I’d not be able to hold it together. Maybe for appearances sake, but my threshold is low and all I had to deal with is a highly stimulated infant who would not sleep until she was 4 years old. I aged 10 years, gained a head full of gray hairs and had numerous meltdowns. Can’t say I ever shook her, but I too can relate to that. It bothers me that it was glossed over though.

  6. Beth Hoffman permalink
    September 21, 2012 10:15 am

    Nicely balanced review, Kathy! I had originally thought I should read this book and added it to my list. But lately I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s truly not for me.

  7. September 21, 2012 11:13 am

    Sounds like a very emotional read.

  8. September 21, 2012 11:33 am

    Wonderful review Kathy. I would pass on this one mainly because it sounds too close to one I read a few years back that was also a true story and I struggled too much with it.

  9. September 21, 2012 11:59 am

    This is a very fair review and I can see why you struggled with feeling comfortable with the eventual diagnosis that seemed to “fit” with what may have already been thought. You’re right that a book can never really give a great overview of everything that was felt, thought, and that happened, though. The family, without question, is to be admired for not allowing this to break their family apart, so that makes me intrigued to read this one day. Definitely sounds like a choice for a book club, I can imagine the debates and discussions with this one!

  10. Ariel Price permalink
    September 21, 2012 12:33 pm

    Have you seen this video? ABC News covered Jani’s story and a few other kids with schizophrenia. It’s really fascinating.

    • September 21, 2012 1:25 pm

      I had not seen that video – thanks for sharing. You’re right it is fascinating. I can’t imagine dealing with something like that.

  11. September 21, 2012 1:39 pm

    Excellent review, Kathy! I had not heard about this book before. It does sound like a compelling story.

  12. September 21, 2012 2:13 pm

    I was looking forward to your review on this one, since I read the book, too. I haven’t written a post about it though, because for some reason, I’m not sure what to write. Like you, I didn’t want to judge the Schofield’s, especially Michael – but sometimes his behavior puzzled me and I just wasn’t too sure that I agreed with some of his actions. As far as shaking her and glossing over that incident, I agree with you. Seems to me that if he shook Janni, it must have had some effect on her. Like you, I found the book fascinating – I couldn’t stop reading and stayed awake until 3am just to finish it. Definitely a great book for discussion – as it raises so many questions. Great post!

  13. talesofwhimsy permalink
    September 21, 2012 2:44 pm

    Wow. Poor people. Wow. I feel for them already. Great review my dear.

  14. September 21, 2012 3:42 pm

    I agree with Beth, very well balanced review!

  15. September 21, 2012 4:26 pm

    This book sounds like one that would arouse emotions in readers, and I agree that it sounds like a good book club pick.

    I know that I’ll read it soon. You made some excellent points, Kathy, and I can see how conflicted feelings would arise with this kind of story.

  16. September 21, 2012 4:29 pm

    Very interesting review! Diagnoses for children is such a controversial area, I’m a teacher and sometimes I do question diagnoses given and the circumstances around them. I don’t like the hint in your review that the dad thought concessions should be made as his daughter had a high IQ. I think I want to read the book if it’s going to be as interesting as your review!

  17. Patty permalink
    September 21, 2012 6:15 pm

    Fabulous sharing, Kathy, since I have never had children I have no clue what my reaction would be in this kind of situation…I can’t imagine that I would handle anything like this without much angst and pain…and the worry and stress would be overwhelming.

  18. September 21, 2012 7:17 pm

    I’m pretty sure I saw this family’s story featured on a documentary. I watched a cprogram on children with schizophrenia.and the one girls name was Jani. The topic fascinated me, I never thought about how children can be diagnosed with this illness. If this is the same family that was featured, they went though hell and back. The book sounds really interesting. I have to check this out. Great review.

  19. September 21, 2012 7:35 pm

    This book has me fascinated, I may have to read sooner than later great review. I find the emotions hard at times especially when it is real life. Great discussions for book clubs i’m sure.

  20. September 22, 2012 12:15 am

    I saw the documentary, and I was just amazed, and saddened by it. Mental illness is very real and devastating. I can’t imagine it with a child that young. I’m not sure I want to read this.

  21. September 22, 2012 4:29 am

    Sounds good, but so sad too. it must be so hard

  22. September 22, 2012 8:47 am

    I absolutely loved your perspective on this one. Many of our book friends loved this and I did request it from the library but didn’t get it in time before my hold expired. I remember watching this family on Oprah and was amazed by their story. I still want to read this one.

  23. September 22, 2012 11:40 am

    This sounds so much like a tv show I saw on TLC that was chronicling a couple with a girl who sounded just like this. I can’t imagine making it through and if this is the same family I saw in that show I wouldn’t mind reading the book.

  24. September 22, 2012 1:09 pm

    I’ve got this one on my TBR list. Glad to see you enjoyed it.

  25. September 22, 2012 3:16 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation. i am always looking for a good audio book. Listening to The Cypress House right down and it is GOOD!

  26. September 22, 2012 4:21 pm

    I had no idea there was a book about Jani but I have seen the documentary about her family “Born Schizophrenic.” I can’t imagine having to live the way her family does, living in 2 different apartments to protect Bodhi, the constant strain of worrying about Jani, the expense. So isolating. I’m definitely picking this one up!

  27. September 22, 2012 5:14 pm

    Sounds interesting. I think I saw this family on the Oprah show a few years back. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for this family.

  28. September 23, 2012 9:46 pm

    You’ve kind of convinced me I need to read it. Sounds like a great book club read.

  29. zibilee permalink
    September 24, 2012 10:35 am

    This is one that I need to read. I think this family was on Oprah one day while I was watching. I find it interesting that you go into the the details of why Dan seems like such a strange father, and I admit that I find some of the things you mention strange as well. I can’t imagine having a child who is like Jani, and think that just because she is mentally ill doesn’t mean she doesn’t have to follow rules. This is a book that I am going to be reading soon, thanks to your review. It sounds fascinating. Fantastic job today!

  30. September 25, 2012 4:53 pm

    I would highly recommend watching the Documentary Born Schizophrenic:January’s Story. It gives you a real look at Jani’s behaviors, I watched the doc awhile ago and just finished this book in print, I found that I want to follow Jani’s life and see if what her parent’s are doing will work if she will ever become a productive member of society. You can see my review here

  31. September 25, 2012 4:55 pm

    Darn I can’t edit my comment I put the wrong link sorry

  32. October 1, 2012 12:25 am

    Since I’ve ecome a mother I find that I rarely judge other parents. Some kids are challenging and parents are doing the best they can. As for hospital shopping til they got the diagnosis they wanted, well, I’ve been there and it’s a tough, time-consuming road. I didn’t really think I wanted to read this one but as I type this I think I might want to check it out!

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