Hello to All That A Memoir of Zoloft, War, and Peace

John Falk




Trade Paperback

304 Pages



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John Falk was an average Long Island kid, until depression trapped him, at age twelve, in a lonely world. Ashamed and afraid, he said nothing and tried to keep going with tips from his big, loud, loyal family. By the age of twenty-four, he was all alone, living in his parents' attic, surviving on the books by war correspondents that provided his only escape from the emptiness he felt. When he found a blue pill called Zoloft, he thought his struggle was over. But it took a journey to Sarajevo—where he set out to make his name as a reporter—to show him how far he still had to go.

Hello to All That is an off-the-wall, heartbreaking, and often hilarious tale of a correspondent reporting from war, but it is also a tale of a real man's fight to defeat his greatest enemy—chronic depression—and to connect, cure himself, and finally live.


Praise for Hello to All That

"Falk has somehow written a book about war and the even more terrifying darkness within him that manages to be both poignant and irresistibly funny at the same time. Hello to All That is a brilliant, moving, hilarious, and altogether completely original memoir that will undoubtedly go down as an instant classic."—Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm
"By turns hilarious and harrowing, Hello to All That is a literary tour de force that will have readers alternately laughing out loud and nervously checking their own psychological pulse. In a manner that cannot be readily explained, Falk combines the story of his own battle with depression with his madcap misadventures as a journalistic wannabe in war-ravaged Bosnia to produce a memoir that is funny, unstintingly honest, and remarkably touching."—Scott Anderson, war journalist and author of Triage and The Man Who Tried to Save the World
"[A] triumphant memoir . . . [Falk’s] relentlessly honest account of turning his life around is inspiring reading."—Scott Helman, The Boston Globe
"Besides being a memoir, Hello to All That is a moving portrait of a war-torn city and the unthinkable adjustments that become part of its victims’ daily lives."—J. David Santen Jr., The Oregonian
"With humor and humility, Falk writes about war on two fronts. The first is the author's pre-Zoloft fight with depression as a teen and young adult, and the second his post-Zoloft battle to 'reconnect' with the world as a freelance correspondent in Bosnia."—Carole E. Barrowman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"A haunting excursion into the extreme territories of the mind and the world. Falk's Hello to All That is a testament to the strength and breadth of the memoir genre, a seemingly impossible match of subjects that turns into a riveting, raucous, and unforgettable reading experience. This work seems destined to achieve cult-classic status, recognized for its huge artistic risks and its unexpected dividends . . . A tense, yet often hilarious account of grave risks undertaken and unbelievable successes that result despite daunting odds . . . [This] gripping memoir never lags, offering not only page-turning drama, but also laughs galore and some genuine tears along the way."—John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"Absorbing . . . As a boy, the author felt content, loved, and connected to his world. But that all ended one morning when he was 12 and woke up to find himself emotionally cut off from all he had previously cared for, for no reason he could recognize. He spent the next 12 years putting up a good front, until he finally began taking Zoloft and almost miraculously felt like himself again. Becoming a correspondent in a war zone seemed the best way to rejoin the human race and experience some of the intensity of life he'd missed for so long. So Falk scared up some press credentials and flew to Sarajevo, landing smack in the middle of the hostilities of 1993. His portrait of the ruined city, the confusion, and the humanity is rich and vivid, and the characters he introduces are beautifully realized: Dina, a straight-A student who studies through the war and works two jobs; Vlado, an 'antisniper' (a shooter who targets snipers only) whose story of divided loyalties is particularly searing. Even in the midst of war and depression, Falk manages to keep things entertaining with highly readable prose and many tales of professional mistakes . . . A remarkably warm, surprisingly moving, and timely portrait of daily life in a war zone."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Afflicted with chronic depression from childhood, Falk thought his troubles were over when he discovered Zoloft at age 25. But it wasn't until he chose the hazardous career of war journalism in Bosnia in the early 1990s that he escaped his 'pointless' life. In this raucous, zany memoir, the author explains how he chose that profession after reading books of extraordinary lives and deciding adventure would restore him to life. Courting chaos and death in a place where sanity matters little would, he thought, do the trick. War reporters were 'free agents who answered to no one and lived each day like it was their last.' Falk intercuts wild, amusing scenes of his troubled 1980s Long Island youth with the uncontrolled mayhem of Sarajevo, where his instincts as a reporter often failed him and got him into tricky situations (e.g., being mistaken for a spy). However, while maniacally juggling his meds and daily NBC radio stories, he experienced the futility of war and matured as a man and a journalist. Falk's wise, comical testament ends on a joyous note of a marriage and a Details magazine article that morphed into a Peabody Award–winning HBO movie, Shot Through the Heart, making his story an unlikely personal triumph over depression."—Publishers Weekly
"As an adolescent growing up in Long Island, Falk suffered the onset of a profound depression that eventually held him captive in the attic of his parents' home, afraid to leave and afraid to live. At the age of 24, Falk found some relief in Zoloft but felt he needed to be jolted into life by pursuing for real what was his only form of escape—reading the memoirs of war correspondents. Off he goes to Sarajevo with dubious credentials and no contacts, so conspicuous in his body armor that townspeople at first take him for a spy. With the help of a local family and a freewheeling freelance reporter, he eventually situates himself and reengages in life amid the harrowing fear of death. Falk alternates between recollections of his numbing depression and his incredible adventures in Sarajevo. Zoloft and a promise made to his mother pull Falk through. This is a thoroughly engaging memoir, sometimes hilarious and sometimes horrifying, as Falk recalls episodes in a brutal war and one man's personal struggle to reconnect with life."—Booklist
"In this compelling book, freelance journalist Falk recounts his descent into depression, his successful treatment, and his subsequent experiences as a reporter in war-torn Bosnia. At age 12, depression brought his once-happy childhood to a sudden end. While he soon learns to present a 'normal' face to the world, neither his own efforts nor his family’s love can conquer the hidden pain that drives him to the brink of suicide. In desperation, he agrees to try antidepressants and is stunned when Zoloft provides the relief that love and willpower could not. After emerging from more than a decade of depression, he becomes a war correspondent, travels to Bosnia, and moves in with an initially wary Sarajevan family who slowly comes to love him. Despite the inner torment he describes and the war he reports, Falk's story is ultimately uplifting. He is a gifted and often humorous writer whose words bring alive the human connections at stake in his struggles. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

John Falk is a law school graduate and freelance journalist. An article he wrote for Details magazine, entitled “Shot Through the Heart,” became an HBO movie and won a Peabody Award for Best Cable Movie of the Year. He lives in New York City.
Read the full excerpt


  • John Falk

  • Among psychologists today, John Falk is known as patient X and the story of his recovery from chronic depression is used to inspire hope in other patients. He is also a law school graduate and freelance journalist who survived the rough-and-tumble of reporting from the front in Sarajevo. An article he wrote for Details magazine, entitled “Shot Through the Heart,” became an HBO movie and won a Peabody Award for Best Cable Movie of the Year. This book originated with an article, penned for Esquire in 2001, titled “No Zoloft, No Peace.”