The Driest Season opens with the heroine, fifteen-year old Cielle, finding her father hanged in their barn, a suicide. What follows is a strained funeral, serious concerns about the financial survival of the family, and boyfriend troubles and college decisions for her and her older sister. The story starts on a strong note, with a swirl of necessarily concealed emotions and a small cast of characters with deep ties, but slowly seems to fade away with a rather humdrum ending. Relish the first half!
Tag Archives: suicide
In The Why of Things, a family arrives at their summer home in a New England seaside resort to find that a man has apparently dived to his death in their backyard. Since the family is mourning the death of its oldest daughter, also to suicide, all kinds of emotions bubble up from the parents and both remaining daughters. The story is told from the points of views of the family members, who seem to be spending their time leading mostly parallel lives (and doing a great job of never talking about their feelings!), and told with exquisite details and with great care. But there are some unexplained circumstances, chief of which is how a middle-class family can spend weeks on vacation without any job pressures of any kind (maybe if one has to ask, one does not understand how the rich live, but they don’t seem that rich…) And how could the oldest daughter have kept a boyfriend at the summer house?
Like An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination (which talks about losing a baby), The Suicide Indexdiscusses a taboo topic, death by suicide, in a very intimate way since the author’s father killed himself, unexpectedly. She names the chapters as one would an index, hence the title of the book, which creates eerie (and powerful, because they must be decoded) titles and she painstakingly analyzes her reactions, both immediate and delayed, and those of her family. There’s much pain and sadness, naturally, but the book is not all grim.
I found it particularly interesting to see how her mother’s egocentrism continues unabated during the crisis (“How could he do this to me?” “I’m suffering more [than his brother] because I’m his wife”) and how most people, including the author go back again and again to blaming her dad for what they see is betrayal, even as they acknowledge that depression is a disease. It seems that we are not quite ready to acknowledge that despair can be something completely different than a simple lack of self-control.