Can You See Me?



What happens when the person you love most, best, falls prey to schizophrenia? Can You See Me? is the story of Doren and Sarah Solomon, a brother and sister so close they share a secret place, imaginary world, and private language during childhood. While Sarah eventually grows up and relinquishes their private haven, for Doren, it becomes a way of life he never surrenders. Sarah struggles to help Doren, even to save him, without truly understanding the consequences. Told in the alternating voices of both Sarah and Doren, Can You See Me? is a powerful psychodrama portraying schizophrenia from the inside-out.


Some years ago, while I was in college, a disheveled, confused man lurched into my face and whispered, “Can you see me?” I jumped, as if I’d received an electric shock. Later, I was surprised by my own reaction. I knew the man had schizophrenia. I was familiar with the illness because a beloved member of my own family has schizophrenia and I grew up with all of us in the family struggling to cope with this devastating illness.

Madness is frightening, mysterious. Madness remains a skeleton in the family closet, stigma only adding to pain. Yet one person in every four families suffers from some form of mental illness, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Schizophrenia—the most severe type of mental illness—affects one person out of one hundred, about as common as diabetes.

Often a novel or story begins with a question that does not have a yes or no answer. The question that catalyzed my novel, Can You See Me?  was, What is it like to be Doren? What is it like to have schizophrenia?

I wrote Can You See Me?  to tell a dramatic and moving story. Yet I also hope my novel brings schizophrenia out of the closet into the light. With knowledge comes empathy, for people afflicted with schizophrenia and their families.

The novel took me five years to write and ventures inside the mind and heart of the character with schizophrenia, Doren Solomon. It was a risky and frightening place to go; at times I feared I would never find my way back, but I am home again, stronger for the journey.


Philip S. Holzman, PhD

Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Harvard University

“Ami Sands Brodoff has written a tender yet wrenching portrait of one family’s struggles to live with a brother’s schizophrenia, an illness that seizes its victims as teenagers and robs them and their family of the ordinary joys and sorrows of sanity. We are taken on a literal and emotional roller coaster ride as the family discovers that love may not be enough to conquer the emotional cancer of schizophrenia, yet it is all they can give."

Jaime Manrique

“Riveting. Can You See Me ? is a beautifully wrought and poweful novel. An unforgettable debut.”

Jim Grimsley

“In this spare, eloquent book, Ami Sands Brodoff unfolds a tender, richly drawn world inhabited by brother and sister-- orphans in a family of psychiatrists and neurologists—who test the limits of sanity. The novel touches deep chords. Brodoff’s writing is supple and fine, as she makes the imaginary worlds of Doren and Sarah as real as the real family that shapes them.”

The Princeton Packet

“Can You See Me ? paints a gripping picture of schizophrenia’s toll on one individual and his family. The book gives, with fearsome clarity, a chilling insight into the minds of the rambling, wild-eyed people one sees on the city streets… the reader is virtually inside Doren’s mind as he wanders the New York landscape.”

The Times

“Author Ami Sands Brodoff, whose brother has struggled with schizophrenia, has written a novel looking at the disease from the inside out. Unique. Uplifting.”

The Psychoanalytic Quarterly

“This is a moving novel about the intertwined lives of a brilliant young man who succumbs in adolescence to the ravages of schizophrenia and his devoted but bewildered younger sister, who suffers along with him. It will be of interest to anyone who cares not merely about emotionally troubled individuals, but also about the others in their lives who are in their own way affected by the emotional problems that afflict them. The reader is led on a (moving and graphic) odyssey.”

Publishers Weekly

“Heartfelt, ambitious; one family’s way of coping with the trauma, shame and secrecy of mental illness. A genuinely moving novel."