Thursday, September 8, 2011
Tolson 4 TEARS Reviews "History of A Suicide"
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.
Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson