A Bitter Pill to Swallow by Tiffany Gholar

“I’m mad, I’m scared, I’m frustrated, and somehow all of those feelings are normal, and I’m normal, and I’m not my feelings. I’m just me, just Janina”

During the process of reading this book I talked to SOO MANY people about it! Tiffany tells the story of 4 individuals intertwined by the Harrison school for the “mentally ill”. By narrating through each individual’s eyes and bringing them all together – you get a whole new sense of the term “you never know what someone is going through”. Janina, Devante, Dr. Lutkin and Gail all have their own internal struggles to deal with as well as concern for each other.

Every chapter I read I felt more and more connected to Janina and the other characters. I couldn’t help but find myself analyzing her actions myself and trying to come up with my own explanations and jump to the conclusion. I just had to keep reading – I had to understand and get to know these characters and their stories more and more.

I laughed, I cried, I felt angry, I felt connected. The experience that is this book was powerful.

I also found myself comparing some of the traits of the patients in this book with people I know. I grew a higher understanding of “gifted” individuals in my life. This book honestly opened my eyes and touched my heart in more ways than one.

I highly recommend.


a-bitter-pill-to-swallow On the edge of the Chicago medical district, the Harrison School for Exceptional Youth looks like a castle in a snow globe. Janina has been there since she was ten years old, and now she’s fourteen. She feels so safe inside its walls that she’s afraid to leave.
Devante’s parents bring him there after a tragedy leaves him depressed and suicidal. Even though he’s in a different place, he can’t escape the memories that come flooding back when he least expects them.
Dr. Gail Thomas comes to work there after quitting her medical residency. Frustrated and on the verge of giving up on her dreams, she sees becoming a counselor as her last chance to put her skills to the test.
When he founded the school, Dr. Lutkin designed its unique environment to be a place that would change the students’ lives. He works hard as the keeper of other people’s secrets, though he never shares any of his own.
But everything changes late in the winter of 1994 when these four characters’ lives intersect in unexpected ways. None of them will ever be the same.


tiffany-gholarAbout Tiffany: Tiffany Gholar is a lifelong resident of Chicago, Illinois. She is the author of three art books: Post-Consumerism, Imperfect Things, and The Doll Project. A Bitter Pill to Swallow is her first novel, which started out as a short story she wrote during the summer of 1993 when she was about to begin her freshman year of high school. She studied art, creative writing and film at the University of Chicago, where adapting her story into a screenplay was her thesis project. In addition to taking classes in an MFA program in fiction writing at Columbia College, she also studied interior design at Harrington College of Design, and has a Masters Degree in painting from Governors State University. She is an artist, writer, interior designer, and Jeopardy! champion.


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