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

Overview


In Her Wake is a rare thing: the story of a psychiatrist analyzing her own psychological drama. Nancy Rappaport was just four years old when her mother--a prominent Boston activist and socialite--committed suicide. Decades later, Rappaport, a child psychiatrist with three children of her own, pieced together a complex mosaic of her "mama." In Her Wake sheds light on the nature of hurting and healing, and is a potent reminder that love outlasts death.
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In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother's Suicide

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Overview


In Her Wake is a rare thing: the story of a psychiatrist analyzing her own psychological drama. Nancy Rappaport was just four years old when her mother--a prominent Boston activist and socialite--committed suicide. Decades later, Rappaport, a child psychiatrist with three children of her own, pieced together a complex mosaic of her "mama." In Her Wake sheds light on the nature of hurting and healing, and is a potent reminder that love outlasts death.
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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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465022137
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 7/12/2011
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 324,447
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


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