New Memoir Traces Writer's Journey to Forgiveness After Brother with Schizophrenia Killed Mom
Vince Granata’s memoir Everything Is Fine recounts the fallout from his brother's 2015 killing of his mother in their Orange, Conn., home
In 2014, Vince Granata was a thousand miles away from home, reading a Dr. Seuss book to children in the Dominican Republic, when his dad called to deliver the shattering news: His brother, Tim, had killed their mom.
The killing took place in the family's Orange, Conn., home. Tim, a former college wrestler, beat and stabbed to death his 58-year-old mother Claudia, who was a doctor and teacher. Tim, then 22, suffers from schizophrenia and experienced severe hallucinations that led him to believe he was in danger and, ultimately, kill his mom.
Vince recounts his mom's final moments and the events leading up to her death in his new memoir, Everything is Fine (Atria Books), which comes out today. In the book, he discusses his childhood in an idyllic neighborhood, spent with Tim and their siblings Elizabeth and Christopher, who were triplets. He discusses Tim's initial diagnosis — and what he tells PEOPLE were the "various failures by the mental health system" that led to Tim's deterioration.
Vince decided to write Everything is Fine about 18 months after his mom died. The manuscript started with notes Vince furiously scribbled on Tim's hospital records. "I was underlining names and highlighting places where I felt like I could find someone to blame," he recalls.
Vince soon connected with a mentor who taught him how to approach writing from a "quieter, more reflective" place of grief instead of anger. "I started to write all the time because my family felt out of my control and too big to understand," he says. "One way that I've always tried to understand the world is through writing."
Tim was charged with murder, but a three-judge panel found him not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. In 2016, he was sentenced to a maximum of 60 years at the Whiting Forensic Institute in Middletown, Conn., multiple outlets reported.
Vince visited his brother at Whiting for the first time three months after their mother died. Maintaining a relationship with Tim helps him remember their family and their life outside of the tragedy. It's one of the ways Vince honors his mom's legacy, he says.
"She was his most important caregiver and, more than anything, she wanted him to have a chance to live life without oppression from his illness," he says.
The anecdotes Vince shares from his visits with Tim are some of the most tender, emotional moments of Everything is Fine. Ahead of the trial, Tim called Vince with an odd request before their next visit: He wanted pink sweatpants and a beanie with cat ears. "As Tim grew more aware of where he was, of what he had done, he grew terrified of how people saw him," Vince writes. "Even in his facility, he knew that his specific crime — matricide — cast him as inhuman, as a monster."
He continues: "I wonder too if these new clothes were also a way to change how he saw himself."
Tim has since moved to Dutcher Hall, a less restrictive facility on Whiting's campus, and has been voluntarily medicating for nearly four years, Vince says. He adds that Tim has read Everything is Fine and they continue to talk every week. "I'm blown away by how supportive he's been," he says.
Vince hopes the book helps combat some of the stigmas surrounding schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses, and that it also raises awareness of some of the larger issues plaguing mental health care.
"We often treat mental illnesses like schizophrenia as acute issues, like a gunshot wound, instead of the chronic conditions they are, and that doesn't allow for long-term healing or support," he says. "I want people to see Tim as someone who is so much more than his illness, someone who is so much more than what happened to our family."
Everything is Fine (Atria Books) comes out today.
If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.