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The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order Hardcover – August 4, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 61 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In spare prose, Wickersham (The Paper Anniversary) has produced an artful and vivid memoir. Within the index of suicide, she has found a form capacious enough for both intimate detail and general information; cold data and lyric moments; for mystery and for consolation. As she follows her father's suicide chronologically from his death through a passage of 15 years, she doubles back through family history (her mother's, her father's, her husband's), telling the story under such subheads as anger about, other people's stories about, possible ways to talk to a child about, romances of mother in years following. Her search takes in matters as mundane as the police investigation, as academic as the nature of biography and as disquieting as the issue of suicide. The elementary facts—when, where, and how—are straightforward, even simple: My father got up early one morning, went into his study, and shot himself, but her pursuit of why leads Wickersham and her reader into the unanswerable questions [and] unresolvable paradoxes that give her book classic qualities. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE SUICIDE INDEX 

“No one can ever fully answer the devastating question that suicide remains for those left behind, yet here, in Joan wickersham’s exquisitely straightforward story, I found surprising consolation. It is a love story, a mystery, a quiet tragedy, a dark comedy, and a profoundly absorbing modern family saga. It will stay with me for a very long time.”—Julia Glass, author of Three Junes

“In this harrowing, beautifully written memoir, Joan Wickersham tries to understand the forces that drove her father to take his own life. Part detective story, part anguished examination of a family, she traces the myriad repercussions suicide has not only on the future but also on the past. a powerful, important book.” —Abigail Thomas, author of A Three Dog Life


"In spare prose, Wickersham has produced an artful and vivid memoir...within the index of `suicide,' she has found a form capacious enough for both intimate detail and general information...her pursuit of `why' leads Wickersham and her reader into the `unanswerable questions and resolvable paradoxes' that give her book classic qualities." (Publishers Weekly 2008-06-24)

"In this harrowing, beautifully written memoir, Joan Wickersham tries to understand the forces that drove her father to take his own life. Part detective story, part anguished examination of a family, she traces the myriad repercussions suicide has not only on the future but also on the past. And she has created the perfect form in which to stage her inquiry. A powerful, important book." (Abigail Thomas, author of THREE DOG LIFE 2008-06-15)

"The Suicide Index is just astonishing. Having endured the suicide of a close family member, I opened this book with dread and longing: fearful of revisiting so much pain yet keenly wanting, as I always will, to understand why. No one can ever fully answer the devastating question that suicide remains for those left behind, yet here, in Joan Wickersham''s exquisitely straightforward story, I found surprising consolation. It is a love story, a mystery, a quiet tragedy, a dark comedy, and a profoundly absorbing modern family saga. It will stay with me for a very long time." (Julia Glass, author of Three Junes 2008-06-15)

"This book is beautifully written and haunts the reader long after it''s closed." (Library Journal 2008-06-15)

"Wickersham''s tender, funny, occasionally sardonic, and ultimately gut-wrenching memoir is more a story of family life than a somber assessment of self-murder." (The Boston Globe 2008-08-04)

[Wickersham] exposes the whole messy territory of inheritance, of heritage, of what our families leave us, the treacherous trail of genetics and psychology and unhappiness, the legacy of all those generations as they play out in ways that we can see and ways that we will never see across the patterns of our lives...an almost perfect balance, producing a survivor''s story, a portrait of suicide from the outside, one that finds clarity in its inability to be clarified. (Los Angeles Times 2008-09-04)

Wickersham refuses to settle for sentimental, simplistic answers. Her absorbing narrative is suffused with a profound longing to understand what went wrong in her father''s life...Joan Wickersham has journeyed into the dark underworld inside her father and herself, and has emerged with a powerful, gripping story. (Leddy, Chuck The Boston Globe 2008-09-15)

Bleak, strong, and fiercely honest, this book will help anyone going through [the process of loss]. (Reeve Lindbergh Washington Post)

Wickersham, the top-drawer writer, expresses little anger toward her father; she feels that she''s the only one left who''s on his side. But she is terrible in her loyalty to him; as she recounts the various instances in which his fragile dignity was wounded during his life, you cringe, in turn, for her mother, her in-laws, her father''s business partner, her father''s parents, and so on, when she trains her pitiless eye on one after the other. (salon.com)

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