History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life

History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life

by Jill Bialosky
3.2 85

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History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky

“It is so nice to be happy. It always gives me a good feeling to see other people happy. . . . It is so easy to achieve.” —Kim’s journal entry, May 3, 1988

On the night of April 15, 1990, Jill Bialosky’s twenty-one-year-old sister Kim came home from a bar in downtown Cleveland. She argued with her boyfriend on the phone. Then she took her mother’s car keys, went into the garage, closed the garage door. She climbed into the car, turned on the ignition, and fell asleep. Her body was found the next morning by the neighborhood boy her mother hired to cut the grass.

Those are the simple facts, but the act of suicide is anything but simple. For twenty years, Bialosky has lived with the grief, guilt, questions, and confusion unleashed by Kim’s suicide. Now, in a remarkable work of literary nonfiction, she re-creates with unsparing honesty her sister’s inner life, the events and emotions that led her to take her life on this particular night. In doing so, she opens a window on the nature of suicide itself, our own reactions and responses to it—especially the impact a suicide has on those who remain behind.

Combining Kim’s diaries with family history and memoir, drawing on the works of doctors and psychologists as well as writers from Melville and Dickinson to Sylvia Plath and Wallace Stevens, Bialosky gives us a stunning exploration of human fragility and strength. She juxtaposes the story of Kim’s death with the challenges of becoming a mother and her own exuberant experience of raising a son. This is a book that explores all aspects of our familial relationships—between mothers and sons, fathers and daughters—but particularly the tender and enduring bonds between sisters.

History of a Suicide brings a crucial and all too rarely discussed subject out of the shadows, and in doing so gives readers the courage to face their own losses, no matter what those may be. This searing and compassionate work reminds us of the preciousness of life and of the ways in which those we love are inextricably bound to us.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439134740
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 02/15/2011
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 229,381
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Jill Bialosky is the author of four acclaimed collections of poetry. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and The Atlantic, among others. She is the author of three novels, most recently, The Prize, and a New York Times bestselling memoir History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life. Jill was honored by the Poetry Society of America for her distinguished contribution to the field of poetry in 2015. She is an editor at W. W. Norton & Company and lives in New York City.

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History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 85 reviews.
Lynn_C_Tolson More than 1 year ago
History of a Suicide: my sister's unfinished life by Jill Bialosky is a compassionate yet discomforting memoir. Bialosky seeks to solve the mystery of her sister's suicide so that she can move through the endless grief. But there is no solution, other than to consider that Jill's sister, Kim, found her life unbearable. The result for the reader is a sad but satisfying examination for those who mourn a friend or family member's self-annihilation. Bialosky says that, "Suicide should never happen to anyone. I want you to know as much as I know. That is the reason I am writing this book." Within the family unit, there is death (of Jill's biological father); depression (Jill and Kim's mother) and abandonment (by Kim's biological father). Kim unwittingly recreates this destructive foundation in a relationship with an abusive boyfriend (who killed himself five years after Kim's suicide). Jill deals with unbearable losses related to having children. This is only a brief summary of a discomforting family history. The scope of Bialosky's work on this memoir is extensive. The author even consults with Dr. Edwin Shneidman, who wrote The Suicidal Mind, for a psychological autopsy on Kim. Bialosky also summarizes studies so the readers don't have to, and there's information we might not otherwise learn: "...the rate of suicide was twice as high in families of suicide victims as in comparison families." Throughout the book, Bialosky weaves research with literature, inserting poetry and prose to compliment the narrative. For example, Bialosky uses the metaphorical concepts of Melville's Moby Dick in the midst of her memoir. The style worked to help her understand the act of suicide, and that is of utmost importance. The variety of writing methods serves to reach a multitude of readers: What does not communicate well with one reader may be the catalyst for insight for another reader. As the author of a book about suicide in the family, and my own suicide attempts, I found History of a Suicide compelling and courageous. It is a labor of love to dig so deep to try to come to grips with the finality of suicide.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have never known someone who committed suicide, but I was drawn to it by the idea of learning more about how to deal with sudden death and the unresolved issues of that death. This book truly helped me. It did. For anybody challenged by that hurt, guilt or anger, I'd also recommend "When God Stopped Keeping Score," look it up here on BN and you'll understand why that is my favorite book of all time.
NYgrl1914 More than 1 year ago
I related to so many parts of this book on so many different levels. From struggling with my own depression over the years, to the struggles of many I have loved, I learned so much. The author does a wonderful job of telling her sister's story, as well as her own. It is respectful and written with taste. I highly recommend it for anyone suffering from depression, or for anyone who loves someone suffering. It will open your eyes and heart.
65Judester More than 1 year ago
This was a phenomenal book. The writing superb. I loved that the story didn't just focus on her sister's death. The depth of grief at the loss of her sister, even after 20 years, is one I can relate too, having lost a sibling to cancer. Loved this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing interpretation of the meaning of life and value in it. Her writing is very fluid and interesting, keeps you captivated and makes you think about your own life and its ups and downs.
sillysonz More than 1 year ago
Good read although the story skips around a lot. Useful information for anyone who is faced with suicide of a loved one.
Tonya Dowling More than 1 year ago
if you have ever lost someone to suicide, you will relate to this book. brought me back to my own past snd how i dealt. good read!
Thinglet More than 1 year ago
I too, have suffered the loss of a sibling to suicide. Much of this book I could relate to. Although mine was a brother, the age difference, family circumstances, means of death, etc. were very similiar. I lost my father at the age of 5 and my mother remarried and had my brother. My step-dad was a no-show and pretty much out of the picture. Although it has been 27 years, this book gave me comfort and answered some very important questions, one of them being "could I have changed anything?" Everyday I still think of him, but I have to believe his pain was just too much to bear. As the book states, he didn't want to die, he just didn't want the pain any longer. I've gotten so much comfort from this book and I highly recommend it to everyone. It is a very sad situation, but suicide impacts almost everyone's life at some point whether it be with their own family or friends.
sneps More than 1 year ago
This is a true story and based on the research and diary journals the author, Jill Bialosky, has compiled together. In doing this, she hopes to have a better understanding to the events that led to the suicide of her younger sister, Kim. Most of all, it is an opportunity to bring closure from her sister's death that was not only untimely, but unexpected. This story weaves diary entries, along with police records, interviews of family and friends, and Jill's personal recollections of her sister's life. This book is by no means a "how to" book, rather it sheds light into the impact suicide has to survivor's. The series of losses both sisters experience is tragic and shows how differently they both coped. Not minimizing Kim's life story, Jill Bialosky shares her own struggles and bouts of depression. This also is a way for Jill to not only honor her sister through telling her story, but it also shows that despite the finality of death, the soul and spirit live. It is a book I would recommend to those working with suicidal clients and families, as well as those affected by suicide. This is also a great book for those who love memoirs. While this book does deal with serious subject mater, there are moments where both sisters experienced some great memories.
pugnose More than 1 year ago
For anyone who has experienced someone's death (by suicide or natural); contemplating or knows someone who has committed suicide this book is for you. Jill's book does not just touch the surface of suicide; it explores deeply the subject and also makes one think of the aftermath of death in general for the people who are left. Couldn't put it down.
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