The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order Hardcover – August 4, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“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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Your book, The Suicide Index is nothing short of riveting. Written with such HEART and such BEAUTY and maybe mostly—COURAGE. Alas, I am your new number one fan.
I have yet to read a book that reaches where yours does to find out/seek/dig at the truth, meaning, and repercussions of suicide. There isn’t a stone unturned in your three-hundred some pages, not a consequence unrealized or unrecognized. I see you telling the story your father could not. I see you giving his suicide ultimate voice.
Mental health continues to have such stigma, and that’s another reason your book touched me so deeply. Thank you for unabashedly shedding an artistic light on such a deeply personal issue.
You are so truly gifted, and I am planning to reread your book sooner than later to study the structure and narrative arc more deeply.
This author does a presentable job with facts. It must have been difficult to write about her father’s suicide, but she does so with great honesty. She shares the family’s reaction. She shares the reactions and experiences of friends. There are some very well-written parts of the book.
But often the point of view changes. When she writes from the ”you” POV, but means the “I” POV, the result is often disturbing. Sometimes chapters or parts of chapters are written in third person. The result is confusing.
There’s a chapter called “Suicide, Psychiatry as an Indirect Means of Addressing” where I, the reader, was lost. Who was she addressing? Her psychiatrist? Her psychiatrist’s son? I kept restarting the chapter thinking I had missed something.
Other times she is addressing her father. Sometimes she spends too much time on unrelated stories, like listing her mothers possessions.
The biography of her father and grandparents is too long. And we readers still end up knowing very little about these people other than that the grandparents were dancers.
Yet there are many parts of the memoir that are well-written and that deserve attention.