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Are You There Alone?: The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates Hardcover – January 12, 2004

63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Andrea Yates's horrific murders of her five small children-drowning them one by one in their bathtub-remains one of the most shocking crimes of recent years. In this overly detailed retelling, investigative journalist O'Malley has transformed herself in the popular current style from observer into participant, albeit with ample justification. O'Malley, who had written for TV's Law and Order, was suspicious when a prosecution witness, attempting to establish that Yates acted with premeditation, testified that the television show had recently aired an episode in which a mother killed her children and then escaped punishment by asserting a postpartum depression defense. Sure enough, no such episode was ever made, and O'Malley led the Yates defense team to rebuttal evidence that came too late to affect the guilty verdict. The author asserts that Yates was never properly diagnosed and relies on psychiatric opinions that claim, tragically, that a different diagnosis and appropriate treatment could have prevented her devastating actions. The writing sometimes jars ("To say this day sucked didn't begin to cover it," O'Malley says of the fatal day), but some new information and heartbreaking extracts from correspondence the author received from Yates add interest. More analysis would have been welcome, even if the nature of the murders seems to necessarily render a satisfactory understanding forever beyond human capacity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

O'Malley brings dignity to the true crime genre with Are You There Alone?. Through her in-depth research, interviews, and personal correspondence, O'Malley exposes the history of Yates's mental illness, attempted suicides, and the medical system that failed her. She asserts that if Yates had received a proper diagnosis and appropriate medical treatment, her children might still be alive today. While some critics found O'Malley's writing tedious, most were impressed with her exhaustive details, analysis of Yates's medical condition, and corrective to the media's story. Indeed, her attention to detail contributed to the discovery of a major flaw in the prosecution's case. Unfortunately, it came too late to reverse the jury's guilty plea, but influenced Yates's sentence of life in prison, rather than death, sentence. Overall, this book offers compelling insight into mental illness, healthcare, childcare, and the legal system.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Printing edition (January 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743244850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743244855
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By "thatjazzcat" on January 9, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Have you noticed how it is that when you mention the name "Andrea Yates" people's jaws go slack? Wait 'til you read this book. It is SO good. Not sensationalized at all. It doesn't have to be. The facts are sensational enough. The author, Suzanne O'Malley, has used interviews with Yates by various psychiatrists,interviews with her husband, mother and dozens of others as well as the court transcripts and letters from Andrea Yates herself to the author to tell the story. Apparently, O'Malley is the only reporter to have carried on a correspondence with Yates from her cell in prison. (Would love to read the entire letters and not just the exerpts in the book - wow!) What I like, is that the writer does not intrude on the subject - it tells itself seemingly effortlessly. Just every now and then, like one of the classic tragedies - which surely this is - she will very subtly point out something that is so ironic or just plain stupid that you have to laugh out loud. Thank goodness! Anyway, It's terrific.
The killing of her children was and is, of course unspeakable" but the depth of her understanding combined with the sensitivity of Yates's portrait makes this an extraordinary book. Read it. You won't be sorry. Truth is, after all, stranger than fiction.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I first heard about Andrea Yates horrible crime I was living in Houston, and like most of my friends thought she was a cold blooded killer. I mean, it takes a while to drown five kids - how could she have done that? I figured at some point after the first or second you would have to comprehend what you were doing and STOP - how could she do all five? I am a mother (of only one, however) and I have been hospitalized for depression and bipolar and I know I couldn't do that to my child. But my illness was not nearly as severe as Mrs. Yates disease. This book dispels some of the rumors and puts Mrs. Yates into a more sympathetic light. Under Texas law, she knew that her acts were wrong, but, in her psychotic frame of mind, she beleived she was taking the best course of action available to her. This book makes a compelling argument for mental health care reform - if Mrs. Yates had received anything close to the kind of help she needed, her children would almost cetainly be alive today. If her problem had been physical rather than mental, her children would be alive and she would be a well woman. If anything, this book showed me that there are two sides to every coin, and that even though I myself have been the recipient of poor mental health care, it is still easy to blame the patient. This story has no clear cut right or wrong, but does show that health care in this country should be governed by the patients illness, not the amount of care their insurance will cover.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "lindsaylulu25" on January 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Psychology in general has always been interesting to me. I am getting my minor in Psychology currently. I was shocked and sad by the terrible, horrific story of the Yates children. This book was impossible to put down. I read the entire book in a day. The author does a wonderful job of telling the story and offering insights not all people are willing or capable of seeing. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of the case and the disturbing story. It does a wonderful job of making Mrs. Yates seem human and terribly, terribly let down by the psychological health system in the United States.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jon Gordon on October 29, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Are You There Alone?" by Suzanne O'Malley could easily have been entitled "The Definitive History of the Andrea Yates Murders." The story is graphically written, fast paced, and comprehensive. O'Malley's descriptions of Andrea Yates, as well as her husband Rusty, and their five murdered children, although not exhaustive, is sufficient and skillfully written so as to immediately establish an intimate connection between the reader and the principals of the story. And overwhelmingly, it is a story of sadness and tragedy.

In several of the reviews, O'Malley has been criticized for seeming to empathize with both Andrea and Rusty Yates and the criticism, considering the totality of the circumstances surrounding the murders of the five children, is probably misplaced. It is hard to imagine that any reasonably thinking person could not help but to empathize with Andrea Yates, at least to some extent, for the extremely tormented person that she was. She was not some sort of diabolical psychopath hiding in the bushes seeking to strike out at some unsuspecting children as they walked down the street. She did not derive pleasure from the physical suffering of others. She did not achieve some sort of deranged excitement or sexual satisfaction as her children struggled for their lives. As the jury who convicted her of capital murder concluded, had it not been for Andrea Yates' mental illnesses, she would not have committed the crimes. And in telling the story, O'Malley rather than empathizing with her, leaves it up to the reader to reach their own moral judgments not only about Andrea Yates, but about all of the individuals involved in the story.
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