Bitter Medicine

by Clem and Olivier Martini

March 2010
10 x 6 paper 264 pp
ISBN 978-1-55111-928-1
CDN $23.95 | US $23.95

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Winner of the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize
Winner of the 2011 Alberta Trade Non-Fiction Book of the Year
Finalist for the 2011 Alberta Readers’ Choice Award
Finalist for the Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction
2012 selection for the University of Calgary’s Common Reading Program

In 1976, Ben Martini was diagnosed with schizophrenia. A decade later, his brother Olivier was told he had the same disease. For the past thirty years the Martini family has struggled to comprehend and cope with a devastating illness, frustrated by a health care system lacking in resources and empathy, the imperfect science of medication, and the strain of mental illness on familial relationships.

Throughout it all, Olivier, an accomplished visual artist, drew. His sketches, comic strips, and portraits document his experience with, and capture the essence of, this all too frequently misunderstood disease. In Bitter Medicine, Olivier’s poignant graphic narrative runs alongside and communicates with a written account of the past three decades by his younger brother, award-winning author and playwright Clem Martini. The result is a layered family memoir that faces head-on the stigma attached to mental illness.

Shot through with wry humour and unapologetic in its politics, Bitter Medicine is the story of the Martini family, a polemical and poetic portrait of illness, and a vital and timely call for action.



“This is a rare and powerful book. It gives the meaning of love without talking of love. It is both heartbreaking and truly victorious. It tells us clearly that mental illness is a dimension of ‘normal’ the way that shadow is a dimension of light. And we should walk with our shadows.” – Dragan Todorovic, author of The Book of Revenge

“There’s hope in the art of Olivier, whose line drawings evoke the work of R.O. Blechman. Though mch of the work — some old, some produced for the book — is bleak, he infuses a remarkable amount of humour and joy into his drawings.” — Mark Medley, The National Post

“The book’s greatest strength is its profound ability to humanize a frequently misunderstood condition, and to highlight mental illness as the ‘orphan child’ of the health care community.” — Quill & Quire