National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Book Review: The Gospel According to Josh
By Dina Al Qassar, NAMI Intern
The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah
By Josh Rivedel
Skookum Hill (2013)
At the age of 25, Josh Rivedal thought that he was going to have the perfect life: a career in Broadway, his own television show and the perfect home with his long-term girlfriend. Yet the odds weren’t in his favor: by the time he was actually 25 he was a college drop-out who starred in a few minor shows at local theaters, working double shifts at restaurants, struggling to keep his relationship of six years alive, and most importantly, surviving his father’s suicide and trying to keep himself alive. In his book, The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah, Rivedal recalls his experiences with depression and tells the tale of how he came to understand his father’s suicide.
Rivedal grew up in the small town of Trenton, N.J. Born to a family with a loving and silent mother and a father who had issues with anger, Rivedal had plans to escape the clutches of his dysfunctional family from a very young age. He recounts his adventures as a child, like silently bonding with his father over old movies and Elvis songs, to being punished and beaten down, from attending church and complaining about it, to joining school plays and other theatrical performances in his small town.
After finishing high school, Rivedal moved to New York in pursuit of a theatrical career yet his dreams ended quickly when he realized that being a performer wasn’t as feasible as he though. A few years later his parents filed for a divorce and he was pulled back into his family again. His father did not handle the divorce well, and a few months later died by suicide, like his own father before him.
While trying to deal with the shock and the pain of his father’s suicide, his mother then takes them to court over the issue of their inheritance. But to make matters worse, his girlfriend of six years breaks up with him a few months later. Rivedal, heart-broken and feeling betrayed by his own mother, finds himself standing on the ledge of his window in his fourth-floor apartment. That’s when his journey with mental illness started with the ghost of his father that began to haunt him in his sleep.
Rivedal takes the reader through his journey towards recovery and how he used his father’s suicide and his own struggles to raise awareness surrounding the issue of suicide and mental illness. He writes his own one-man show called The Gospel According to Josh to tell the story of his father and educate youngsters about mental illness and the reality of suicide. Rivedal tours the country and visits schools and colleges to perform his show and raise awareness about these issues. With the combination of theatrical wit, sarcasm and humor, raw emotions, familial turmoil, and heart-breaking honesty, Rivedal writes his story and takes his readers on an unforgettable and inspirational adventure that brings tears and laughter as well. It’s a story of hope, love, and success that guarantees to inspire many who battle mental illness or live in the shadow of it.