Well, I have to say that, through my website, I am getting many, many emails from readers now that Half in Love has officially been published.
After an excerpt of the book appeared last Saturday in Salon an online magazine, there were 38 posts in their Comments Section in the first day and a half—virtually all of them from people who felt the book reached them, touched them, spoke for them—and for their families, as well.
All these positive responses make me think about my family members, some of whom are not so pleased to once again see their private faces in public. Why do you do it? they ask. Why do you have to write something so personal about us all? And, even worse, put it in print for everyone to see?
It’s a difficult question. How do you protect the ones you love and still write about a topic you believe needs to be made public and to be discussed?
In the United States today, someone kills him or herself every seventeen minutes, a million commit suicide worldwide annually, and suicide outranks homicide two to one. You could say that if you are depressed, your own hand is more dangerous than a gun.
So, it is even more important to talk about the way in which it can be handed down through the generations. After Nicholas Hughes, the son of the suicidal poet Sylvia Plath, killed himself in the spring of 2010, I wrote a piece about the legacy of suicide for the New York Times Op Ed Page.
My own mother tried to commit suicide many times, and I had to learn to live with that. Half In Love is about that process. I wish, fervently, that I could have saved my mother, but I could not. My entire family wishes they could have saved Anne, but they could not.
And still, they ask why I need to discuss this publicly. In response, I can only say that memoir has its risks.
You take the chance that your family may be angry with you after you tell your story, that they won’t understand why you think it is important to talk about these issues. Maybe, over time, they forgive you. Or maybe, over time, they don’t.
Nevertheless, when my sister read Half in Love she told me that it had illuminated for her my mother’s suicide as well as my own attempts. She still didn’t like that I had written about it for everyone—even her friends—to see, but at last she did understand why.