The Memoir of a Schizophrenic

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Non-Fiction - Autobiography
714 Pages

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Ruffina Oserio

Date: October 2018
Source: Readers' Favorite


Memoir of a Schizophrenic by Karl Lorenz Willett is a compelling read with a strong appeal for fans of memoirs that explore the minds of those with mental illnesses. In this memoir, the author takes readers on a journey through schizophrenia. Written for his family, it starts with early memories at Davis Infant school and documents the author’s experiences living “at the edge of human experience,” and battling thoughts of darkness, obsessed with a reality that is as elusive as it is illusionary. The author writes about his mental battles, moments of depression, and suicidal tendencies, letting readers in on how distorted his reality could be. Even assistance in a psychiatric hospital at an early age didn’t help. But how did this man cope with his condition, where did he find the stability to establish a family and raise children?

While the prose isn’t impeccably good, the narrative is poignant and psychologically rich. The author writes with honesty and allows readers a powerful glimpse of his troubled mind. The author worried about spiritual realities; he suffered with the idea of hell and blamed the church for not teaching the values of love, compassion, understanding, joy and happiness. This was one of the causes of his deep-seated fear and anxiety. He writes: “The preaching of gloom and doom hence the coming of Christ had consigned everyone to ‘hell’, always the wages of sin, death and the devil.” The narrative is emotionally and spiritually rich and the reader will feel connected to the protagonist.

Memoir of a Schizophrenic is a moving story and while it speaks of the struggles of Karl Lorenz Willett, it also delivers a powerful message of hope — we can always find meaning and healing when we are deeply connected to a support system, to a family, and to friends. The book conveys the message that love heals, nourishes us and empowers us to overcome the most difficult challenges.

Gisela Dixon

Date: October 2018
Source: Readers' Favorite


Memoir of a Schizophrenic is an autobiography by Karl Lorenz Willett which largely revolves around his life and struggles with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a well-known mental illness and Karl writes about how it affected his life and his life happenings in general in the form of letters or essays written to his children. The book is written at various periods of his life and covers a long time span spent writing it in bits and parts. The book begins with an introduction by Karl, followed by his early years in the West Indies with his family and siblings, his later years when he was first diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, the delusions and hallucinations that are a trademark of this illness, and Karl’s experiences with this in his own words, his marriage, birth of his children, his suicidal thoughts at times, and generally his life story up to this point.

Memoir of a Schizophrenic is written at various periods of Karl’s life and so there is a noticeable difference in the style and writing approach of these times. The book also tends to be a bit on the long side but it still manages to engage the reader’s attention. I liked that the paranoid thoughts such as thinking that someone is persecuting them or coming after them - which is so common among schizophrenics - has been described in the first person and that gives us a glimpse into the patient’s mind and how real this is to them. Hopefully, a book like this goes some way towards removing the stigma attached to mental illnesses in general in society and will help people realize that mental illnesses are just as worthy of compassion and sympathy as physical illnesses, and how they can alter a person’s life. This is a good book on living with a mental illness.

Anna Scott

Date: October 2018
Source: Good Reads


So I picked this up thinking it would be interesting to hear about the first hand experiences of someone with schizophrenia. There is so much dialogue today about various mental health disorders, and I thought this would be an interesting contribution to the conversation. While it was interesting, it was not in the way I had imagined.

To be honest, I don’t really understand this book. It seems like an odd conglomeration of a diary or journal, an ongoing letter to his children, and an autobiography regarding his illness stretching from 1982 to 2016. To be quite honest, I didn’t even finish the book. I read 70 pages, and was still only a tenth of the way to the 714 pages it was in all. Out of what I did read, though, maybe 10% was directly related to schizophrenia. Even this, in the way he addressed it I couldn’t tell how much was the illness and how much was religious confusion. The rest of the book was anecdotes about his life: falling in love, getting married, having kids, etc. My largest critique is simply that the book was too long and contained too many irrelevant details. For example, there was detailed information regarding his finances when his family wanted to move, what it meant for him to be an organ donor, and his living will should he need it. As I said, I spent most of the time reading this confused as to why he was sharing it. Upon glancing at the remaining 90% of the book, I saw that it continues in this fashion for another 20+ years from the time I stopped reading until the end. Due to this, I felt as though there wasn’t a climax or point to the story, just random memories and occurrences in his life, loosely held together in a chronological format.

Overall, I like Willett’s writing style - other than some typos he wrote well. It was clean, although some of the things that he addressed to his children regarding their birth I wouldn’t want to know if it were me. It was just too long and felt a bit disorganized.

K.C. Finn

Date: October 2018
Source: Readers' Favorite


Memoir of a Schizophrenic is a work of autobiographical nonfiction by author Karl Lorenz Willett. As the title suggests, the work explores the lifelong struggle of its author with the devastating psychological condition of schizophrenia. Born in the West Indies in the 1950s, Willett has lived an extraordinary life growing up during some of the hardest and most fast-paced times the world has ever seen. During his time in England, some years later, Willett’s first inklings of psychological problems begin, and from there we chronicle a life plagued by illness and promises of help, some of which prevail and some that don’t, but it is a struggle which continues to this very day.

Karl Lorenz Willett has crafted a heartbreaking journey which speaks in its most raw form directly to those he loves, and those beyond himself who want to learn and experience his condition for themselves. I can imagine how cathartic it must have been to recount such a difficult life through the struggles to cement some kind of normality for himself and his family, despite repeated breakdowns and the ever-present threat of suicidal thoughts. Though some readers may find the lack of grammar in some sections difficult to get through, for me, I was fascinated to see the effect of such emotion on the language center of the brain, and it was harrowing to be invited to see the imperfection of Willett’s condition. Overall, Memoir of a Schizophrenic will certainly not appeal to all, but it is an accomplishment of highly emotive writing for those who take the time to read it.

Divine Zape

Date: October 2018
Source: Readers' Favorite


Memoir of a Schizophrenic by Karl Lorenz Willett is a brutally honest, poignant, and deeply moving story that explores the experiences of a paranoid schizophrenic. The narrative takes readers through recollections of the author’s early years back at Davis Infant School — fairy tales, nursery rhymes, learning The Lord's Prayer, and a mixed children's playground where he played marbles, hopscotch, skipping and acted out some nursery rhymes adventurously. Karl knew something wasn’t right when he started experiencing delusions and hallucinations. But his family was there to help, and a stint in a psychiatric hospital with medication seemed to fix him. He met the love of his life and got married, and had lovely kids, but how he saw events and how he felt about life was something completely challenging. In this book, he discusses the anatomy of his mental illness and explores symptoms of depression, suicidal tendencies, and a lot more.

Memoir of a Schizophrenic is bold and filled with naked sincerity, a story that will allow readers to feel the pain of the author and of those suffering from similar illnesses. But it also tells of a broken man’s courage to face his demons, a tale of love that pushes a man to open the darkness of his soul to his family and to allow others to touch him where he hurts the most. His recollections are conveyed to reader with great clarity. He captures the moment of the inner turmoil in simple language: “The first wakening of my soul and the consequent doubts, temptations and perplexities came when I was an adolescent. It was not until I was in the threshold of my life that I became, in some inexplicable way, detached from the reality of the world in which I lived and my behavior became opposed to my former self.”

The prose may not be stellar, but the strength of this memoir lies in the psychological landscapes that the author paints for readers, the internal struggle to reconcile inner fears with outward reality. Memoir of a Schizophrenic explores a conflict that is existential and plunges readers into the mind and inner workings of the heart of a schizophrenic. I found it to be deeply moving, spellbinding, and filled with grit. In the heart of this narrative lies the secret strength of family.

Christian Sia

Date: October 2018
Source: Readers' Favorite


Memoir of a Schizophrenic by Karl Lorenz Willett is a moving memoir with strong psychological underpinnings, the story of a schizophrenic patient. In this narrative, the author takes readers on a ride through his troubled psyche, from childhood until when he started exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia as an adolescent. Paranoid schizophrenia has been part of the author’s life and it manifested itself in ways that had a great impact on his family and social life, with deep-seated fear, strong anxiety, frequent thoughts of suicide, and a distorted way of seeing reality. In spite of these symptoms, the wonderful news is that the author survived, had a family, and lived to share the story. Readers will find it encouraging and inspiring, a memoir that explores the darkness of a soul without hiding its light.

This is the first autobiography of someone with a mental disorder that I have read and I must say that it’s a great achievement. Although there are some issues with the language, the voice is strong and clear, absorbing in a way, and the author’s honesty permeates the narrative, making it a story that is hard to put down. Memoir of a Schizophrenic is poignant and arresting, a story that lays bare one soul’s pain. As I read from page to page, I couldn’t help noticing the author’s humanity, his aversion to a religion that didn’t preach values of hope and love. The social context within which the author’s life evolved never made it easy for his anxiety — important to note the preaching filled with thoughts of hell and eternal punishment and how disturbing it could be. Karl Lorenz Willett’s memoir is bold and brutally honest, a story that communicates hope and the message that we can always trump our inner devils. It is a generous offering to the protagonist’s family and readers who want to understand what it is like to be a paranoid schizophrenic.