Cover: Lifeline by Stephanie Kain, ECW Press

Lifeline: An Elegy

Kain, Stephanie

  • What happens when someone you love suddenly cliff-dives into mental illness? And then you discover that there may be no return?

    This experimental memoir reflects on the author’s intimate and complicated relationship with a woman diagnosed with suicidal depression, and the startling and chaotic new world of locked wards, heavy medications, and electroconvulsive therapy that follows.

    Interweaving personal essays, fragmented prose, poetry, stream-of-consciousness, and text exchanges, this collage-style book invites the reader into the mysterious world of a treatment-resistant condition and illuminates the urgency and intimacy of caring for someone with an ultimately fatal mental illness. Running through the center of the narrative is the relationship between two people whose fierce love for each other is both the tie that binds and the anchor that drowns.

    Lifeline is a testament to the importance of hard conversations, humor, and dignity in the face of a courageous battle for sanity; an interrogation of the flaws in the medical system; a debate on when life stops being worth living; and a conversation and reflection on what it means to love someone enough to go on without them.


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  • Stephanie Kain is a creative writing professor at the University of Ottawa. She has twice been shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award. Kain divides her time between Ottawa and PEI, where she loves to stroll the red sand beaches with her young daughter.

  • Published: October 2023

    ISBN: 9781770417311

    Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.

    Pages: 216


Lifeline shows us what the world looks like when someone you love takes their life. Elegiac, insightful, and searingly honest, Lifeline is a valuable and wholly original exploration of mental illness and the devastation it leaves in its wake.” — Don Gillmor, Governor General’s Award-winning author of To the River: Losing My Brother

Lifeline is a frank, poetic discussion of the myriad facets of mental illness, so intimate, detailed, and honest that you’ll feel you’re there beside Kain, perhaps even as S, the one whom she once a critique of the mental health system, a lament for a friend, and an expression of deep love and commitment.” — Ottawa Review of Books

“Every once in a while a book comes along that carries news of the front lines and traces the interior of an experience in a way that lets us see it with new eyes. Lifeline: An Elegy is such a book. There is no place to hide here, to pretend that we can somehow sidestep the intensity of human emotion. And, paradoxically, it is in this rawness, in Stephanie Kain’s unflinching honesty, that we come to understand this is a story of resilience and love.” — Eve Joseph, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize and bestselling author of In the Slender Margin: The Intimate Strangeness of Death and Dying

“The book’s format is jaunty and compelling, and its portrayal of the frustrations and realities of helping a loved one through mental illness is done with intensity and honesty — yet free of judgement and stigma, the things that can hold people back from seeking care.” — The Catalyst