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.
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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.