Gorilla and the Bird

Gorilla and the Bird

A memoir by Zach McDermott

Zach is “THE GORILLA” alongside

“Zack McDermott, a 26-year-old Brooklyn public defender, woke up one morning convinced he was being filmed, Truman Show-style, as part of an audition for a TV pilot. Every passerby was an actor; every car would magically stop for him; everything he saw was a cue from ‘The Producer’ to help inspire the performance of a lifetime. After a manic spree around Manhattan, Zack, who is bipolar, was arrested on a subway platform and admitted to Bellevue..”

“So begins the story of Zack’s freefall into psychosis and his desperate, poignant, often hilarious struggle to claw his way back to sanity. It’s a journey that will take him from New York City back to his Kansas roots and to the one person who might be able to save him, his tough, big-hearted Midwestern mother, nicknamed the Bird, whose fierce and steadfast love is the light in Zack’s dark world.

Before his odyssey is over, Zack will be tackled by guards in mental wards, run naked through cornfields, receive secret messages from the TV, befriend a former Navy Seal and his talking stuffed monkey, and see the Virgin Mary in the whorls of his own back hair. But with the Bird’s help, he just might have a shot at pulling through, starting over, and maybe even meeting a partner who can love him back, bipolar and all.

Introducing an electrifying new voice, Gorilla and the Bird is a raw and unforgettable account of a young man’s unraveling and the relationship that saves him.”


Gorilla and the Bird is an upcoming American drama television miniseries based on the memoir of the same name by Zack McDermott. The limited series ordered by HBO was announced on December 10, 2018. The series is to be directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.

Rave Reviews

Read what people are saying about Gorilla and the Bird and then get your own copy. The book is available in hardback, paperback, Kindle, and audiobook.

“Glorious…one of the best memoirs I’ve read in years…a tragicomic gem about family, class, race, justice, and the spectacular weirdness of Wichita. [McDermott] can move from barely controlled hilarity to the brink of rage to aching tenderness in a single breath.”


Marya Hornbacher

New York Times Book Review

“McDermott brings a vivid and unsettling degree of intimacy to his descriptions of mania’s onset. . . His work as a public defender grows out of a deep sense of empathy for the stigmatized and marginalized that’s evident on every page. He uses that empathy to construct a deeply compassionate portrait of his mother – a resilient woman whose love helps ground him in the real, even in moments when his reality is at its most friable.”



Book Reviews

“A tale of madness, self-destruction, and the stalwart presence of a family…McDermott’s memoir is decidedly offbeat, unfolding like a country song. There’s the law, some good jokes, substance abuse, and love lost and found, but there’s also a keenly felt sense of justice for the people who can’t catch a break in this world, ‘the dregs, the castoffs, the addicts’…If the Joads were tanked up on Bud Light and Haldol and Steinbeck were under Hunter S. Thompson’s influence, this might be the result-rueful, funny, and utterly authentic.”


Kirkus Reviews

Book Review Service

“A poignant memoir…[McDermott’s] book asks us to destigmatize mental illness by familiarizing us intimately with the issue.”


Los Angeles Review of Books

Literary Review Journal