The Fragments of My Father by Sam Mills
(4th Estate, 2020)

The Fragments of My Father

by Sam Mills

In the vein of the Costa-winning Dadland, with the biographical elements of H is for Hawk and The Lonely City, The Fragments of my Father is a powerful and poignant memoir about parents and children, freedom and responsibility, madness and creativity and what it means to be a carer.

It was as though my life were suspended – as though, when my father had first fallen sick, I had inhaled, and I was still waiting to let out that gasp of breath.

There were holes in Sam Mills’s life when she was growing up – times when her dad was just absent, for reasons she didn’t understand. As she grew older, she began to make up stories about the periods when he wasn’t around: that he’d been abducted, spirited away and held captive by a mysterious tribe who lived at the bottom of the garden. The truth – that he suffers from a rare form of catatonic schizophrenia, and was hospitalised intermittently – slowly came into focus, and that focus became pin-sharp in 2012, when Sam’s mother died and Sam was left as his primary carer.

Sam triangulates her own experience with the stories of two other carers, one she admires and one, on some days, she fears she might become: Leonard Woolf, husband to Virginia and F Scott Fitzgerald, husband to Zelda, and a man whose personality made him ill-equipped – in a great many ways – for the role of carer to his wife.

The Fragments of My Father is a powerful memoir about madness, love and what it means to be a carer. It’s about how hard it can become to sustain relationships and keep promises and to construct the story of your own life when someone else is relying entirely on you for their wellbeing. But it’s also an affecting account of the surprising and precious consolation that can come from caring for another person, and of seeing the individual behind the illness.

Reviews

Fragments blew me away with emotion and pain, fragments of my father is an intimate epic into life with a father who is falling apart, a daughter trying to keep the family together. Brilliantly written, this will shatter your heart to pieces and put it back together again with the power of love. It is a passionate cry for the millions of carers across the world, unpaid, unthanked, fighting every day out of love. Mills takes you into the human heart at its most broken and its most hopeful in this brilliant book that will make you laugh and cry speaks utter truth about the nature of life and death and the love that sustains us through. Unforgettable, this book deserves all the prizes. ”
- Kate Williams