“How could any sane woman kill her kids? A better question, and the one explored in Catherine Cho’s captivating first book, Inferno, would inquire about the factors (biological, cultural and environmental) that make some women vulnerable to episodes of acute, severe mental illness in the period after they become mothers.
“Cho’s title refers to the perceived hell in which the author finds herself a couple of months after her son is born, a hell that the reader quickly learns is the inpatient unit of a mental hospital. The book begins just as Cho is starting to recover from psychosis, struggling to remember who she is: “I write the words I can call myself. I am a daughter. A sister. A wife. Those words come easily. I can remember them. I stare at the page. And then I write MOTHER. The word looks strange. Next to the others, it stands separate.
“Inferno is a disturbing and masterfully told memoir, but it’s also an important one that pushes back against powerful taboos. We still don’t like to talk about postpartum mental illness, or the fact that, when a mother becomes ill and doesn’t have a support system or access to mental health care, the emotional damage to both her and her children can reverberate across generations.” [. . .] –Kim Brooks, The New York Times, August 4 2020