Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Suicide Index, by Joan Wickersham

I read another one of Wickersham's books recently--a great collection of stories, The News from Spain, that was on a bunch of the "best of the year" lists from 2012. I loved The News from Spain, and wanted to read more by her, but I didn't know if I could handle The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order, though it sounded fascinating. But I put it on hold at the library, and figured I'd see how I felt about it when I picked it up.

This is Wickersham's memoir about losing her dad to suicide, I think when she's in her late 20s (though I don't think she ever actually says). It's written broken up into segments as an index, with headings such as "Suicide: factors that may have had direct or indirect bearing on: expensive good time" and "Suicide: day after: concern that he will be viewed differently now."

I did read it all. I couldn't stop. & those of you who know me, know that my own father killed himself when I was 19.

A lot of what she said rang so true. A lot of it didn't. Our fathers were different people, and we had different relationships with them, of course... like one idea she keeps returning to, is that "Suicide destroys memory . . . When you kill yourself, you're killing every memory everyone has of you. You're taking yourself away permanently and removing all traces that you were ever here in the first place, wiping away every fingerprint you ever left on anything." I don't agree with this, it's not how I feel about my dad. It's interesting to me--one thing (out of many) that I've been annoyed about over the years is that I never got to have an adult relationship with my dad. Okay, no conclusion to draw there. Just stating it.

I read this book quickly, urgently, finding things I vehemently agreed with and vehemently disagreed with. With sympathy for Wickersham, sympathy for myself, for both our losses and the ways we're still feeling them.

I'm glad she wrote it. Glad I read it. It's not the book I'd write, but I'm glad she did.

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