Title: In Her Wake
Author: Nancy Rappaport
Genre/Audience: Memoir, adult
Source: For review, TLC
Suicide is “a permanent answer to a temporary setback” (page 216). When Nancy was four years old, her mother, (also) Nancy, a wife and mother of six children, committed suicide. In this memoir, Nancy searches to uncover the answers and reason for her mother’s suicide. Through extensive interviews with family and friends, as well as in depth reading of her mother’s own writings as well as newspaper articles, Nancy tries to unravel the past.
This book came to me at just the right time and for that I am grateful. Last week, my family and I got the horrible news that a childhood friend (my brother’s best friend as a kid) had committed suicide. Though I hadn’t spoken to him in years, as children we hung out a lot and had so much fun making movies, playing video games, etc. He was always funny and so full of life… so we couldn’t understand why he had done this. We were all shaken and terribly saddened by the news, even though it’d been awhile since we’d known him. We feel sad for his family and loved ones and sad for him most of all, because for reasons unknown to us, he must have been so sad, so desperate, that he felt this was his only option.
I don’t think that people who take their own lives realize how big of an effect it has on everyone. I’ve learned that suicide has long arms – probably a lot longer than the victim can imagine. Our friend’s death reached out to so many people and shook them up, people that were friends with him many years ago that he probably didn’t even know still cared. But they did. I know that for the rest of my life, I will be left wondering why, and even more so for those that were close with him. I will always remember him as the 12 year old boy who made my family and I laugh non-stop, running around in the backyard as “The Galloper,” our version of a scary movie. I’ll miss the boy I once knew, and I know even more people will miss the man he had become, who I was not fortunate enough to know.
Because of these recent events, I found myself very invested in this book, and wanted desperately to know why Nancy’s mother killed herself. Though on the outset, the suicide appeared to be an effect of a long custody battle which she lost, I know it had to have been more. Someone needs to feel so desperate, so alone in this world, to take their own life. Nancy was a very disturbed woman with a lot of emotional problems, despite her outer appearance to the world – that of a successful, beautiful politician and loving mother.
This memoir was both excellently researched and beautifully written. While it had the merits and intelligence of a scientific and well-researched book, it also had the heart of a memoir from a loving and desperately curious daughter. Much of the book was a run through of the family history, and not entirely about her mother and the suicide. The family was very large, boisterous, and dysfunctional – very fascinating to read about. Nancy’s father remarried a young, overwhelmed woman and eventually the family had 11 children (including step-siblings and half siblings), with her mother living separately from her children.
My Rating: 4/5