The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order by Joan Wickersham

This is a good, no, a great book. A non-fiction account trying to come to terms with the suicide of her father, it's set up like an index. It is one of those books where I would read a paragraph, a sentence, a chapter, and the words were so right, so true, so well-written and so painful that I would put the book down because it just physically hurt to continue, only to pick up the book a minute later. This book came out in 2008. I wonder if from the distance of five years Ms. Wickerhsam now recognizes that she is rather harsh on her mother, who comes across as somewhat spoiled: her refrain, "How could he do this to me?" reverberates throughout the book. Of course, they are all asking that, only her mother voices this out loud.

I have one small quibble, and that is I kept wondering how her father's suicide affected her relationship with her sister, who is largely absent in this narrative. Perhaps this is deliberate, a pact that I am sharing my grief but I don't have the right to share yours, but it feels like a chapter, a "citation" is missing.

This is a painful read at best. There aren't any answers, and yet how can you not keep asking? One things kept nagging at me while reading this, and that is how even as adults (even as we age that child never truly eclipses the adult), we have such a hard time acknowledging that other self in our parents. That self that has an unhappy marriage, that self that is disappointed, beset with self-doubt, unsure, and angry, so angry. That other self that isn't the parent you love. It's a part of them you can't touch, a stranger, and why I think we have such a hard time acknowledging that it's there. It's a betrayal. Of course, suicide is the ultimate betrayal. She quotes Flaubert: "We want to die because we cannot cause others to die, and every suicide is perhaps a repressed assassination." Parents always carry the secret fear that we will fail our children. But what if the child fails the parent? A powerful and beautifully written book that I very strongly recommend.



Debris and Detritus (available in trade paperback and ebook formats).

Pen and Prejudice (available in trade paperback and ebook formats).

Roux Morgue (available in hard cover, trade paperback, audio, and ebook formats)

Beat Until Stiff (available in trade paperback, audio, and ebook formats)

Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery Writers of America

Sisters in Crime Northern California Chapter

Independent American Booksellers Association