My Review of the Kirkus Review

About a month ago I posted that our Kirkus review was completed, and I would share it after I gave Kirkus permission to publish it on their website. I also said I would talk about my own reaction to the review. I am posting it in its entirety. But it is important to say that it listed only me as the author. Robin’s name, despite the fact that it was completely clear there were two authors when I initially submitted the manuscript, was omitted from the review. Here it is, followed by the letter I sent to Kirkus about it:

The Review

“In this debut memoir, a psychotherapist learns about herself while diagnosing a patient’s bipolar disorder.

The author treated a young woman named Robin Personette for 10 years before she discovered the patient was suicidal. Robin, a mental health case manager, suffered from depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, but concealed suicidal thoughts from her therapist. In 2003, Robin—then 36 years old—finally confessed her obsession with suicide to DeVinney and agreed to hospitalization and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). DeVinney thought her own professional rigidity had stoked Robin’s inability to communicate, so she decided to extend therapeutic boundaries and use a more personal approach. For example, she let Robin know how much she cared about her. Therapist and client eventually formed a closer relationship, and Robin recorded a CD of sad songs to share her pain. In turn, DeVinney responded with a CD she made especially for Robin. Part I of this dark account is aptly titled “Despair,” as it details Robin’s self-described “meltdown” when she could not stop thinking about suicide. Smooth-flowing chapters begin with the author’s professional point of view and end with “Robin’s Thoughts” about her treatment and life. Readers who are struggling to overcome or understand mental illness should appreciate Robin’s difficulties: she ended up in a hospital four times in eight months; her depression resisted ECTs; and her medication needed to be adjusted several times. In addition to worries about her health, Robin had to deal with such financial struggles as coping with bankruptcy and applying for disability. Readers interested in the mental health field should be intrigued by DeVinney’s sometimes clinical, self-critical voice as she recounts the challenges of treating a complex case: for example, not allowing Robin to become dependent on her. Once officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Robin began learning to live with her disease. Part II, “Deliverance,” becomes eye-glazing when some earlier details—like Robin’s obsession with sun-tanning—are repeated and her job search is drawn out. But for the most part, the author’s clear prose weaves a vivid, touching account of strength and tenacity.

An uneven, but affecting portrait of hope for those living with chronic mental illness.”

My Letter to Kirkus

To Whom it May Concern–I have a concern about my review. I would like to publish it on your website, despite the fact that it is not entirely positive. But I am concerned that I am the only author listed. In fact, the review is mostly written as if I am the only author, which actually misses one of the most important points of the book. The book was written by both me (Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D.) and my former therapy client (Robin Personette). I am pretty sure I included this information at the time of submission. The fact that we both express our own views about our therapy process is what makes our book most unique.

The negative comments by the reviewer (the “eye glazing” comment and the fact that the book is “uneven”) make complete sense if I was the only author. But Robin was writing about her own experiences, in a writing style different than mine (hence it is “uneven”) about topics most important to her (the “eye glazing” part about her job search and tanning compulsion).

I don’t mean to sound defensive. But I am concerned that the review just seems inaccurate. At the very least, can both authors of the book be listed?

Thanks for your consideration.

Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D.


I received an answer from a representative of Kirkus quickly. He added Robin’s name as a co-author, but said he could not change the review because it was the reviewer’s opinion. This is what I expected. I certainly didn’t expect them to admit what I suspected, which is that the reviewer was not a mental health expert. I have no idea whether this is true or not. At this point it doesn’t matter. It is what it is.

For anyone who actually reads the book, I welcome honest feedback about whether the review seems fair…maybe I am being too defensive.


About Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D.

Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D. completed her doctoral degree in clinical psychology at Purdue University. She spent ten years doing full-time clinical practice at a community mental health center with primarily adults. She then spent eight years working as an administrator at that same community mental health center while continuing to maintain a small caseload of therapy clients. She now provides clinical services in long-term care facilities in addition to writing, consulting and spending as much time as possible with the people she loves.
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23 Responses to My Review of the Kirkus Review

  1. oceanswater says:

    I totally understand your disappointment with the review. I got a similar review from them. All other reviews were excellent. So I did as you did, wrote them.

  2. It sounds like they did completely miss the point. This makes me angry on your behalf (and especially on Robin’s behalf) – I know you both put a lot of effort into it and that’s what makes it unique. If anything is uneven it’s their review – lopsided, because it only considers your writing and not Robin’s. ARGH – I’m sorry this happened!

    • Lily, you are so great. Thank you for being angry on our behalf! I am angry on Robin’s behalf, but I tend to be a bit protective of her. She was less upset about it than me…she’s just excited our book is finished!

  3. dyane says:

    This is totally ridiculous on their part – wow, I’ve lost ALL respect for Kirkus.
    The reviewer should have realized there were two authors! And after you wrote them, the professional thing to do would have been instructing their “reviewer” to revise the erroneous review! I’m proud of you for taking action and writing such an excellent letter. Oh Sharon, I’m truly sorry they have done something I consider not only disappointing but unethical. I won’t be approaching them when the time comes.

    • Dyane–Thanks for understanding how ridiculous it seems. Kirkus has such a good reputation. I really hoped to get a professional or at least a helpful review. When it appeared they seemed to miss the point of the book, it was certainly disappointing. I so appreciate your validation and, as always, your support! You are so great… 🙂

  4. Sirena says:

    I don’t think the review is actually very well written. I didn’t recognise anything of what I’ve read from your blog in that dull and stagnant review. It just seemed so impersonal, disconnected, and a boring interpretation. I actual felt bored and a bit dissociated reading it.The fact they could miss Robin in it just beggars belief. Did that person even read the book????

  5. The Kindle version is available on Amazon in the US. The paperback version will be available there sometime in the next week, and both will be available at Amazon Europe soon. I will be posting a blog post when the paperback version is ready. I love that you will be reading it, Sirena! Thanks for all your support.

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