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.