Book Tour: In Her Wake by Nancy Rappaport

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In Her Wake

There are events that paint themselves onto our souls, forever coloring our lives.  Losing a mother at age four is one of those events.  Losing a mother at age four because she committed suicide takes it to another dimension. 

Nancy Rappaport’s mother had it all:  a husband, 6 children, a successful career, drive and ambition.  Unfortunately, she was also depressed and wildly impulsive.  This depression and impulsivity led her to commit suicide, in 1963, when Nancy was just four years old.   Now, some 48 years later, Nancy is still searching for answers, trying to make sense of it.  In her words, “In a sense I have tried to resurrect my mother, to know her as her youngest daughter..” and “I have pursued any lead that might give me a remote sense of who she was and to unravel the mystery of her death.”

She pieces together her mother’s life, her relationships with the people she loved.  This is not an easy task, her mother was a very complicated woman.  Very driven and ambitious, but also selfish and impulsive.  Personally, I did not find her very likable, but you have to wonder if she would have been so selfish and impulsive if her depression had been treated successfully.  Her bad decisions were not your everyday run of the mill bad choices…leaving your husband and 6 children for a 23 year old!, signing over custody of your children to your ex-husband so that you can get a settlement, trying to get your children back and then killing yourself when it looks like you won’t get them back immediately. 

Nancy Rappaport does not sugarcoat anything.  She portrays all of the members of her family, in what seems to be complete renditions.  They are good and bad, they make mistakes, they survive. 

This book was fascinating.  I really felt for her and her family as I was reading it.  I wondered though, will it be enough for her?  Will it give her the answers she is looking for?  I think she says it best, “Knowledge helps, even if we don’t reach conclusions or tie up loose ends.  The accumulation of details may never add up completely, but they do provide scaffolding for understanding.” 

You can find In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother’s Suicideat Amazon.  Also, if you want to find out more about Nancy Rappoport, she has a website.

Book provided by TLC Book Tours, opinions are all mine!: 

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  1. says

    You bring up so many hot button topics about suicide in your review. I so appreciate you taking the time to read my memoir and give your candid thoughts.
    It is so interesting sometimes how readers see things differently then the author. I am not sure if I am being defensive of my mother, but I see her as tortured and not selfish at the time. She was in so much pain and couldn’t think of an alternative than suicide because of faulty logic that suicide was the only solution. I didn’t think of her as wildly impulsive always although I wondered if she might have been bipolar. At times she was impulsive but that she also had enormous strengths. I am trying to say that this is a nuanced story and an effort to draw the reader to appreciate the loss while also showing a healing path to compassion.

  2. says

    I’ve often wondered how it would feel to be the child of a parent who commits suicide. It seems selfish of a parent to commit suicide when they have children and I’m sure it leaves the children wondering why they weren’t enough to live for. Gripping story for sure.

  3. Liz says

    Just finished The Perfect Nazi, written by a man who felt compelled to know what his German grandfather did in WWII. The unpalatable truth was he was in the SS and seemingly unrepentant to his death.
    As w/ Perfect Nazi, In Her Wake seems to have been grown out of a need to clear up obfuscation, lies, and silence that can deaden the soul. It can also serve as a warning to family members, to the extent mental illness has a genetic component or is treatable. Unfortunately, the truth does not undo the pain, unless, as you say, compassion results.
    Best wishes to you on that healing path.

  4. says

    Sounds so interesting… By becoming a Psychiatrist herself, she has probably dealt with some of the reasons that people commit suicide. BUT–when it happens in your family, that sorta changes things.. I hope she did find some answers. For me, writing itself can be an answer..

    My hubby’s little brother committed suicide as a teen. Nobody knew why –and there were never any clues.

    Sounds like a great book. Thanks, Pam.

  5. says

    It’s too bad the lady can’t accept and forgive her mother for what her choices were. My father killed himself when I was 4 1/2 years old, he was a very successful farmer and had everything. For years I tried to figure out why he did this, I’d get mad at him, I’d cry because I was so devastated and it wasn’t until I forgave my father that I was able to move forward in life and let this be. I’m grateful I’ve been able to do this and have been able to move on, otherwise I might be like this lady still looking for answers, answers which unfortunately I don’t think she will never find.

    The book sounds interesting, very close to home for me, it’s just to bad I have all this required reading to get through before I hit the classes for one final year. I’d love to read it. Pam you wrote an excellent review.

  6. says

    Amy, I am glad I made it on to your list.!
    Kim this is a frequent comment that I hear often, the judgement that for someone to leave a child is a selfish act. This is certainly a harsh way of looking at it because I believe that a parent can be devoted to their children and die by suicide. This is an aspect of confused thinking that comes with mental illness and the false perception that they are a burden and that no one will miss them if they are gone
    Liz I agree Compassion is healing probably more than the “truth. And Truth in the case of suicide is more about finding a narrative that helps to mitigate the pain.
    Darlin, my heart goes out to you. I do agree the road to forgiveness is what I am trying to chart in my memoir, not in a prescriptive way but more as an invitation to see how I found vitality and a way to shake the “ghosts in the nursery.”
    Thank you all for your comments. I was on vacation before this.


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