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Posted August 11, 2011
So I have to say once I started reading this book I was really worried it was going to be a story of "oh, my life is so awful because my mom isn't here and how will I ever cope" and it wasn't that... so I'm glad. It is a really well written account of the loss of a mother and a life long grief during poignant moments in your life when all you really want is your mom. As a son I don't know that losing a mom at such a young age would be life altering but for a daughter it would be. Certainly growing up the value of having a mother to answer your questions or to explain what your period is and what exactly to do with a tampon is pretty important. So what do you do if you don't have that? I often think women without mothers, or mothers who weren't really mothers anyways, are probably the best in womanhood because they have to do it on their own. They have to learn how to be a lady, run a household, be a partner and raise children on her own. She has no help or guidance, no role model. I know for myself it would be difficult- I lean on my own mother a lot when I encounter something I don't know.
The interesting twist to this book is that Nancy is a child psychiatrist so in writing her story and that of her mothers, she offers insightful information about suicide in general. One of the lines that stuck with me is on page 216:
"But I wonder if surviving my mother's suicide brings with it a certain knowledge that there are limits to keeping people alive if they are determined to kill themselves."
The only part of books that discuss this side of suicide that bother me is that I often feel the survivors are kind of selfish. It's not selfish to mourn the loss of a person who may or may not have had a lot more life to live, that we'd never know. But it is selfish to look only at what you've now loss and compare it to being worse than how the person was feeling before they decided suicide was their only option. And sometimes I think that when you're ready to go you should be able to go. A person only has so much fight in them for life and when you exhaust that, you have nothing to keep you going. It's like a car- once you run out of gas, you're going nowhere. It doesn't matter how big the crowd around you is cheering you on, that car isn't moving without more gas. All the love and cheering in the world doesn't put gas into that car, the driver has to actually make an effort to get the gas. And some people just can't do it anymore. And I respect that. When someone commits suicide I don't grieve their death, I grieve for the loss the survivors feel. That person clearly was at ease with their death and was ready to go, but that doesn't mean others are ready for it.
So over all, I really enjoyed this book. It was an interesting insight to a family, Nancy expertly weaves her thoughts and reflections as an adult to childhood memories into a touching story of her mother's suicide. Also interesting is she included a "Further Reading" section that sounds like it's similar stories or good resources if you've survived a suicide or just the general loss of a significant person in your life.
Posted July 21, 2011
In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Myster of Her Mother's Suicide by Nancy Rappaport is a fascinating and moving story of the author's search for the truth about her mother's suicide.
Nancy Rappaport was the youngest of her mother's six children and she shared her mother's name. She was only 4 years old at the time of her mother's suicide and doesn't remember the incident and doesn't really remember her mother. As a child psychiatrist and having a family of her own, with children who would sometimes ask questions about her mother, she felt the need to know more. So, she set out on a journey of discovery.
Through newspaper articles, court documents, some papers she found of her mother's, and interviewing family and friends, she set out to put together as much detail of her mother's life as possible. She wanted to see if she could somehow understand what pushed her mother over the edge. And, she wanted to know her mother better.
I VERY highly recommend this book! It reads like a novel and is beautifully written. It will draw you in but doesn't ever drag you down. I always felt a sense of hope and a positive feeling from the book. I found it to be a very captivating story that really hooked me and it touched me. It must have been very difficult to have been too young to remember your mother, and then to have such a cloud over her death. When she was growing up, no one talked about it, so she just really didn't know much about what had happened or what life had been like before. I hope that her journey helped her in some ways. I enjoyed her story thoroughly and wish her and her family the best!
Posted July 11, 2011
Nancy Rappaport was 4 years old when her mother committed suicide. Her parents were embroiled in a bitter custody battle at the time, with the courts siding with her father in the most recent battle before she killed herself. The story is about Rappaport trying to find closure in the death of her mom, seeking out anything to understand her mother's mind and why she committed suicide. It is a mini-biography of her mom, her father, her family, and herself. It is a daughter trying to put together the pieces of her mother's life.
For me, I never felt like I got a true picture of Nancy's mother. I learned a lot about Nancy herself, her parenting styles, and how she and her siblings learned to cope without their mother. While there was exploration into her mother's past and how she came to meet Nancy's father and raise her children, there seemed to be more of an emphasis on how the family coped afterward. It makes sense, though, since the author was just four when her mother passed, but judging by the subtitle, I was expecting to have a clearer picture of her mother.
This was the type of story you would have to read in bits and pieces. The author's writing style is very good and easy to read, but there is a lot of information to digest. It's the type of book you have to read a little at a time, process, then pick up again in a few days. There was a lot of clinical information that I found interesting, but I imagine it just might be too much for some people.
In the end, it was a good book but I wouldn't shelve it among my favorites. It tended to get very wordy in parts. If you're a fan of non-fiction and memoirs, it's a good pick for a book chock-full of anecdotes and information, especially involving suicide and how a family copes with the aftermath.
Posted July 30, 2010
In a lucid documentary, Dr. Rappaport explores the events leading to her mother's suicide that were largely a mystery to her for over 40 years. However, her story delves much deeper. Covering such themes as the powerful impact of unresolved grief, family dynamics, parent-child relationships, the intricacies of blended families, emotional healing, and forgiveness, her account is set in the backdrop of cross country road trips as a child, family dinners, and antics among siblings in a household with 11 children growing up in a prominent, politically involved Boston family.
Pages flow with the eloquence and intrigue of a good novel, but with stark facts that only a solid piece of non-fiction can possess. -A recommended read for anyone who's tried to make sense of his or her own family chaos, loved and hated a sibling or parent simultaneously, experienced the death of a loved one, or tried to heal old hurts. Chock full of detailed family narrative and interesting facts about various mental health issues with footnotes to follow, In Her Wake would also make excellent reading for psychotherapists in training.