We are pleased to offer for review ‘History of a Suicide‘ by Jill Bialosky (Granta, 2015). Expressions of interest are welcome from across the medical humanities.
On the night of April 15, 1990, Jill Bialosky’s twenty-one-year-old sister Kim came home from a bar in downtown Cleveland. She argued with her boyfriend on the phone. Then she took her mother’s car keys, went into the garage, and closed the garage door. Her body was found the next morning.
Those are the simple facts, but the act of suicide is far from simple. For twenty years, Bialosky has lived with the grief, guilt, questions, and confusion unleashed by Kim’s suicide. Now, in a remarkable work of literary non-fiction, she recreates with unsparing honesty her sister’s inner life, and the events and emotions that led her to take her life on this particular night. In doing so, she opens a window on the nature of suicide itself, our own reactions and responses to it – especially the impact a suicide has on those who remain behind.
Drawing on the works of doctors and psychologists as well as a range of writers from Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson to Sylvia Plath and Wallace Stevens, Bialosky gives us a haunting exploration of human fragility and strength. She juxtaposes the story of Kim’s death with the challenge of becoming a mother and her own experience of raising a son. This is a book that explores the families we are born into, the families circumstances give us, and the tender and enduring bonds that keep us connected to the people we love, even after they have left us.
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