Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: In Her Wake by Nancy Rappaport

In Her Wake***

Title: In Her Wake
Author: Nancy Rappaport
Genre: Memoir
Year: 2009
Rating: 3 of 5 stars


Nancy Rappaport was 4 years old when her mother committed suicide. Her parents were embroiled in a bitter custody battle at the time, with the courts siding with her father in the most recent battle before she killed herself. The story is about Rappaport trying to find closure in the death of her mom, seeking out anything to understand her mother’s mind and why she committed suicide. It is a mini-biography of her mom, her father, her family, and herself. It is a daughter trying to put together the pieces of her mother’s life.

For me, I never felt like I got a true picture of Nancy’s mother. I learned a lot about Nancy herself, her parenting styles, and how she and her siblings learned to cope without their mother. While there was exploration into her mother’s past and how she came to meet Nancy’s father and raise her children, there seemed to be more of an emphasis on how the family coped afterward. It makes sense, though, since the author was just four when her mother passed, but judging by the subtitle, I was expecting to have a clearer picture of her mother.

This was the type of story you would have to read in bits and pieces. The author’s writing style is very good and easy to read, but there is a lot of information to digest. It’s the type of book you have to read a little at a time, process, then pick up again in a few days. There was a lot of clinical information that I found interesting, but I imagine it just might be too much for some people.

In the end, it was a good book but I wouldn’t shelve it among my favorites. It tended to get very wordy in parts. If you’re a fan of non-fiction and memoirs, it’s a good pick for a book chock-full of anecdotes and information, especially involving suicide and how a family copes with the aftermath.

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions are my own.


  1. Interesting book.  I know what you mean by your description of this book.  I fel that way about a different book I read this spring called Lonely or something like that?  I don't do well with books w/ tons of clinical info... 

  2. RedSoxGirl107/12/11, 9:40 PM

    Wow this definitely sounds like an intense read, but interesting. What did they decide to highlight the fact that she is a childhood psychologist?

  3. Thanks for taking the time to read and review this for the tour!

  4. Nancy Rappaport7/16/11, 7:52 AM

    Thank you for the comments, I am the author of In Her Wake. Sounds like Stefanie you struggled to get a sense of who my mother was which of course was part of my journey since as you mention I was four years old when my mother died by suicide. I had hoped that she would come alive across time but also recognize the challenge of doing this. The fact that she had written a novel before she died and that I could interview friends and family I tried to piece together. 
     Not to be defensive but some people have found they couldn't put my memoir down because there is a quality of a relentless pursuit to try to find out who my mother was. But I can appreciate that you felt daunted by the intensity of the topic, it is certainly not a light read but meant to be hopeful. In terms of Red Sox Girl I find different readers find this interesting, either because there is a slice of Boston History as my family has deep roots in Boston, Some people are interested because of the fact that I am a child psychiatrist and I talk about working with teenagers and try to make my story also in a more intimate way to look at what is our understanding of why people kill themselves, why do people have affairs, what is the impact of divorce on kids and how do we heal after a loss in our family and what are ways we can ask /revisit what we may have been told as a child and ask questions as an adult. 
    Thank you so much for taking the time to think about my memoir! If any of you also get a chance to read it I would love to hear what you think. 
    Sincerely, Nancy

  5. Thanks for your comment, Nancy! The book tackled some intense topics, but was still a very good read! I do feel like it was a book I couldn't put down in parts, but I felt like I had to put the book down to process it all before picking it up again. Again, this is only my opinion.

  6. Nancy Rappaport7/16/11, 9:04 PM

    I so appreciate that you would give my memoir time to process! 
    I took time to process it too! That is why it took me 18 years to write I would take time to move away from it . Writing only captures a slice of our lives. 
    Just came back from kayaking for ten days and the only intense question was what was for dinner and where to sleep! Nancy


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