The Mythical Bill: A Neurological Memoir

Jody McAuliffe


University of Iowa

Part medical mystery, part war story, and part social and family history, The Mythical Bill tells of how one man's physical and mental pain radiates outward into the life and mind of each member of his family. Weaving together diary entries, correspondence and research, playwright and Theater Studies chair Jody McAuliffe examines her father's life before, during, and after WWII, seeking answers to the questions of what caused his disintegration.

This moving and unusual book is for people who suffer the devastating effects of combat on the psyche, for those who encounter any debilitating disease, and for those who grow up with a father only partially present. McAuliffe’s ear-catching, evocative, and often breathtaking writing forces readers to confront the most terrifying question posed by a parent’s mental illness: will I get it too? Her narrative voice is searching, compassionate, and self-deprecating, but cut through with welcome bits of humor in this daughter’s story of confusion, sadness, and loss.

In a Q&A with The Chronicle’s Shangnon Fei, McAuliffe talked about her inspiration for the book.