Monday, May 7, 2012

A new and fabulous review by Fran Edstrom

The American Association of Suicidology's Recent Reviews column posted such a sensitive and insightful review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, that I have to share it verbatim.

Reviewed by: Fran Edstrom, Editor at Winona Post in Winona, MN.

At 321 pages, Madeline Sharples’ memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, is very readable and well-written. 

Sharples is a 70-year-old married mother of two whose oldest son died of suicide at age 27. Her memoir recounts her son’s battle with Bipolar Disorder, the effect of his illness on the family and on his relationships with his friends.

This is not a dispassionate account of mental illness leading to suicide. Sharples makes several references in the narrative to her forays into poetry and prose writing after her son’s death. She had a mentor who urged her to use her “deep” voice, and she does. There is a liberal sprinkling of her poetry throughout the book, which some readers may find enlightening.

I imagine all survivors of a loved one’s suicide, myself included, have secret guilty ideas about why God — or the gods — has burdened them with the suicide of a loved one. Sharples puts it into words and wonders if the fact that she began a relationship with her husband while he was still married to his first wife put a curse on their lives, or invited retribution from the spiritual world that she ironically does not believe in. We do not often hear or express such guilty fears about suicide, but we know they are there.

Sharples also avoids beatifying her son, who suffered from Bipolar Disorder. Those of us who have to live with mental illness ourselves or have family members with a mental illness know it is not pleasant, and often leads to resentment and sometimes visceral hatred, even though we know that the sufferer cannot help being the way (s)he is.

In this memoir, Sharples tells it like it is, baring her soul to the reader. In doing so, she allows the reader to address and ponder the usually unspoken side of coping with mental illness and suicide. I would recommend this book to suicide survivors, but I would also invite mental health professionals to read it. I would be willing to bet that Madeline Sharples is much more honest about what it is like to survive suicide than most patients and clients allow themselves to be. 

It is a book with much to offer and educates readers about life with mental illness and life after the suicide of a loved one. This book is one that readers will be tempted to share with others who have lost a loved one to suicide. I did. 

Thank you so much, Fran, and the American Association of Suicidology.

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