Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother's Suicide

In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother's Suicide

4.4 5
by Nancy Rappaport

See All Formats & Editions

A psychiatrist’s haunting memoir of her mother’s suicide illuminates our understanding of family tragedy.


A psychiatrist’s haunting memoir of her mother’s suicide illuminates our understanding of family tragedy.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a fearless memoir of loss and grief, this Harvard Medical School assistant prof, veering between “being a detective and... a realist,” delves into a complex family history haunted by the 1963 death of her mother, a Boston socialite, from an overdose when the author was only four. Using her mother's words from newspaper clippings, notes and a novel she was writing at the time of her death, Rappaport, the youngest of six children, reconstructs a vivacious and deeply troubled wife and mother. “Didn't she know that she would leave all these shattered children wondering if it was their fault?” son Jerry laments 44 years later. Yet in pushing through her parents' turbulent marriage and troubled family history, Rappaport weaves a stunning narrative of perspective, profound sadness and unrelenting hope: “I keep trying to follow in her wake, moving in and out of my grief buoyed by the voyage of exploring her dark reality as a way of helping myself to understand her....” She has also mapped an inspiring course for anyone to dissect family dynamics and mental illness, hoping to understand and, finally, accept. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
A heartfelt but disorganized attempt to understand the untimely death of a parent. Rappaport (Psychiatry/Harvard Medical School) was just four years old when her mother-caught in a protracted child-custody battle-committed suicide. As a psychiatry professor, the author has spent her career piecing together other people's stories. But it was not until her father's new wife revealed a previously hidden trunk full of her mother's papers that Rappaport finally began to make sense of her own. At the time of her death, her mother was the daughter of a prominent Massachusetts family, newly in love, wealthy and politically ascendant. It therefore remained largely a mystery why the 34-year-old deliberately overdosed on sleeping pills. Using her notes, photographs, letters and drawings, as well as the draft of an unfinished novel her mother left behind, Rappaport attempts to not only understand the mother she barely knew, but also bring some peace to her still-grieving family. "I was the youngest in the family," she writes. "I'm the doctor. I wanted to help make it all better. Here, I would say, tell me where it hurts." Unfortunately, in her comprehensive approach to reconstructing her mother's life, the author floods the reader with details which-while likely invaluable to a child who never knew her mother-make for a scattered, tedious book. Rappaport's preoccupation with wringing a meaningful narrative out of each recorded interaction-including long exchanges with the judge in the custody case-results in a story that is far less interesting than the details would suggest. A dry, clinical examination of a family's profound loss. Agent: Elaine Markson/Elaine Markson Agency

Product Details

Basic Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Nancy Rappaport is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and practices in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother's Suicide 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its full of cliff hangers u should totally get it no joke dudes
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lynn_C_Tolson More than 1 year ago
Review of In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother's Suicide by Nancy Rappaport http://www.nancyrappaport.com Nancy Rappaport was four years old when her mother committed suicide in 1963. The question anyone asks of someone who has taken his/her own life is "why?" Why would a mother of six take her own life? After years of not speaking about their mother's death, Nancy takes on the task of talking to her siblings to determine the answer to the question "why?" Nancy's children want to know about their deceased grandmother. A saga of generations of complexities evolves that reads like an unsolved mystery. What would make a mother who seemed to "have it all" kill herself? Nancy relies on interviews, articles, and photographs to discover the woman behind the self-destruction. Nancy reads between the lines of court documents and personal diaries to reveal decades of secrets, and she narrates the unfolding story like an emotionally charged archeology expedition. Nancy carefully constructs the story of a life, death, and the aftermath with continuity, clarity, and originality. This is a book well-written within the confines of tough subject matter, and without the full approval of her family members. Nancy unearths the conflicts within a prominent family, as well as the details of custody battles and financial settlements. She faces the differing perspectives and memories of her family members regarding the same events. These are challenges for anyone seeking the truth. It seems fitting that Nancy chose to be a child psychiatrist. She includes relevant cases in the book, weaving her past with their present, their personal with her profession. There is no cover of denial, and no evidence of self-pity. Her purpose must be to help others who have lost someone to face reality. In Her Wake is recommended to anyone trying to understand a variety of aspects of suicide. It's also recommended as an example of the work it takes to develop a sense of self in the wake of suicide.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hriess More than 1 year ago
With exquisite depth and courage, Nancy Rappaport opens the book on maternal suicide, enabling the next generation of readers to have vocabulary, sentences, yes... a whole new language to speak about what was once unspeakable. A brilliantly insightful tale told with heart-breaking honesty and warmth that reads like a detective novel.