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Praise for Setting the Wire


“Sarah Townsend's Setting the Wire is a tightly coiled and disturbingly gorgeous exploration of her postpartum mental breakdown. I devoured these pages—while willing myself to slow down so I could catch every nuance of Townsend's taut, lyrical, wise writing.”

— Claire Dederer, author of Love and Trouble 


Setting the Wire is a book one doesn’t so much read as fall into. Townsend drops us masterfully into a state of mind almost over the edge but never completely. Evocative and mesmerizing, this book should be kept near Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Doris Lessing’s To Room Nineteen, and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.”

— Theo Pauline Nestor, author of Writing Is My Drink


“Sarah Townsend has written a memoir of maternal loss, a state that brings relief only when it is inverted. The mother of this book has a nervous system like wet fire, like creativity before it has been experienced as creativity: thus, “nascent.” This memoir has Ohio in it and also the Puget Sound. Water and earth. Body and mind. Something like “a shard” between. Dip that pointed glass in red ink. Boil that ink over the paper. This book is written like that. When it is too late. When all that remains is the formidably public and emotionally intimate attempt to live at all. And then to make the shift. To trust. To thrive.” 

— Bhanu Kapil, poet and trauma writer


Setting the Wire is a tightrope-walk story of a woman watching herself transform, an urgent, kaleidoscopic telling of motherhood and daughterhood that upends our presumptions of what the self knows and who the self is. The right voice can both reveal hard truths and comfort us in the face of them. With remarkable lyricism and tender rawness, Townsend charts a brave path into the mind so that we might all see ourselves against a new backdrop of reality and memory. Townsend’s stunning memoir reads like the kind of dream you’re desperate to remember long after waking up.”

—  Natalie Singer, author of California Calling


“In this memoir, Sarah Townsend’s beautiful prose describes the loss of her psychic boundaries following the birth of her daughter. Her openness to her infant opened her also to her deepest primitive anxieties—no longer able to trust her own perceptions. This book is a must read for every helping professional working with moms and babies. It is also a reassuring testimony of the capacity to reach these states and grow from them.”                    

— Judy K. Eekhoff, PhD, Training & Supervising Psychoanalyst, Seattle, Washington, USA


“Sarah Townsend’s gripping narrative of postpartum psychosis is a collection of vignettes from her distant and recent past, including complex family stressors—mental illness, divorce, remarriage, deaths of loved ones—intertwined with stories of the author’s birth and breastfeeding experiences, her heart-wrenching struggles with postpartum psychosis, their rippling effect on her immediate and extended family, and finally, resolution. Not a chronological history, the narrative shifts in time and place, creating a mosaic of parts that come together as a whole. We readers become witnesses as we piece together this story. Beautifully written, this book and its form effectively reveal what it’s like to experience postpartum psychosis, and leave us with a message of hope for recovery.”

— Penny Simkin, Physical Therapist, Certified Childbirth Educator,

Certified Birth Doula, Author or co-author of books on childbirth for parents and professionals


“Sarah Townsend has accomplished a miracle with her memoir of postpartum psychosis. Setting the Wire takes the reader on a soul-wrenching journey with prose that reads like poetry. Her words echo in my brain; her story clings to my skin. Bravo for her bravery to share a profoundly difficult life experience.”

— Jane I. Honikman, MS, Founder Postpartum Support International,

Co-Founder Postpartum Action Institute

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