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Book Review :: The Other Side of Nothing by Anastasia Zadeik

Review by Eleanor J. Bader

The Other Side of Nothing, Anastasia Zadeik’s second novel, is an emotionally resonant exploration of what it means to love someone with a life-threatening mental illness. The story centers around Julia, a suicidal soon-to-be-18-year-old who believes that she hastened her father’s death from cancer. After signing herself into a psychiatric hospital, she begins to stabilize. That is, until she meets 23-year-old Sam in group therapy. Sam, an up-and-coming artist, is everything Julia admires and they immediately become a couple. But things unravel almost as quickly as they began.

As Sam’s release date approaches, he convinces Julia to bolt the facility and join him on a cross-country road trip to Yosemite National Park. Once there, he intends to replicate Ansel Adams’ photo of Half Dome. From the start troubles lurk: Sam discards his medication, takes Julia’s cell phone, and becomes increasingly manic and controlling. Julia is terrified.

The hospital, meanwhile, has no clue about Julia’s whereabouts, and although staff have suspicions, they also know that they have to do something–and fast. Despite hesitation, they notify Sam and Julia’s mothers about the disappearance, prompting the pair to take a harrowing road trip of their own.

The Other Side of Nothing addresses heavy themes–bipolar disorder, depression, suicide–with sensitivity and grace, making the book both illuminating and unforgettable.

The Other Side of Nothing by Anastasia Zadeik. She Writes Press, May 2024.

Reviewer bio: Eleanor J. Bader is a Brooklyn, NY-based journalist who writes about books and domestic social issues for Truthout, Rain Taxi, The Progressive, Ms. Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Indypendent.

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