Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Suicide Index


In 1991 Joan Wickersham's father committed suicide. In 2008 her memoir, The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order, was published. Wickersham uses The Sucide Index as a way to try to make sense of her father's death. For this reason, she chooses to write this book in an unique way, in that of an index. I was a bit skeptical but found that this 'index' really works because it represents the struggle that Wickersham went through to make sense of these events in her life. All of these stories and observations make up Wickersham's realizations, but not necessarily in a sequential way.

What I enjoyed most about The Suicide Index is Wickersham's honesty. This could not have been an easy story to tell for her or for her family. Wickersham's mother, while often charming and funny, receives the most harsh treatment, as we learn how she treated her husband, before and after his death. Wickersham cannot help wondering if her mother's desire for a more extravagant life, her self-absorbed nature, her friendship with another man, helped lead to her husband's final act. What about his business dealings, the money he owed, how did this contribute? And why now? Her father had seen hard times in the past, grew up with an abusive parent, was it one event or a series of life's disappointments that pushed him over the edge? And how does this bode for Wickersham - is she or her children at risk of suicidal tendencies, too? Wickersham considers all these facts, as she attempts to find answers, and figure out who was this man she thought she knew. Her father is not only gone and unable to provide any answers, but is also considered and classified as 'a suicide'.

I probably wouldn't have read this book had it not been offered to me for review, but I'm glad I did as it is quite moving and Wickersham is a gifted writer. I haven't experienced suicide in my own family, but as Wickersham finds, many people have who seem to find some healing in sharing their stories. While those affected by suicide will especially find much to identify with in this book, this is also a story of a father and daughter, a mother and daughter, and we can all identify with that.

6 comments:

Carrie K said...

It does sound interesting but I probably wouldn't pick it up.

Literary Feline said...

I will have to keep an eye out for this one. Thank you for the review. Suicide has touched my life, unfortunately, but it's not something I talk about too often. I do think people should though for as you said, there are those who do find healing in sharing their stories.

Maw Books said...

This one sounds interesting enough, but I'm debating whether I have more room on my TBR. On to the list of considerations it goes!

J.Danger said...

It would be interesting to read an index. I am having a hard time visualizing exactly how that would pan out.

Tara said...

Carrie K, I can understand that.

Literary Feline, thank you for your comment. It is sort of a taboo subject for many people, so I find this author very brave, that she's addressed this so publicly.

Maw Books, I know the feeling!

J.Danger, it's not as odd as it sounds, and more the way the author organized the material rather than the way it's written.

Karen said...

It didn't sound like the sort of book I'd normally read, but I thought it was very fine and an important treatment of a terribly difficult subject. I echo your comments, Tara.