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39 Reviews
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-written but painful book
Jill Bialosky mentions in this book that she would like to provide a legacy for her sister, Kim, and she delivers in this exploration of the most difficult question we face when we lose young people whom we love: WHY? The story is narrative that flips back and forth through time and employs Kim's diaries and compositions to examine how Kim came to the irrevocable...
Published on February 22, 2011 by EJ

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poetry Garbage
I don't know what I expected from this book.I can tell you what I didn't expect though,a poetry book!
I grew so bored of all the poems and highlights from other books.
The author spends too much time telling mundane things about childhood,and not enough substance about the subject.
For instance,another reviewer asked why there are no photos of Kim...
Published 6 months ago by Customer


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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, June 5, 2012
By 
Holly A. Jocoy (Southern California) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If only we had the sister's insights. I really, really wonder what happened to push her over the edge that fateful day.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Testament, June 22, 2011
By 
Amazon Customer "g...man" (Livonia, MI United States) - See all my reviews
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I just finished and wanted to thank Jill for her excellent book, History of a Suicide. As the niece of an aunt (my dad's youngest sister) who committed suicide in 1978, a grandson of a woman who was committed to Eloise Psychiatric Facility for 15 years before she died (and whom I was named after,) and the brother of a 13-year-old who died (from a car accident) in 1982, I thought the book was extremely moving, honest, informational, and emotional. The book is so detailed with memories and so beautifully written and is a memorable testament to Jill's sister.
I hope that somewhere beyond our comprehension, her sister knows and is grateful for the love she has shown her and what she has written about her.
I at least am eternally grateful.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating But Not Enjoyable, May 10, 2011
This review is from: History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life (Hardcover)
This book tells the story of how Jill is dealing with the suicide of her sister, Kim. It's a lot more than that though. It also tells of Jill's own struggles of having two children die during childbirth and of their mom who blames herself and refuses to visit Kim's grave site.

Jill goes to support groups and I found it interesting to read how different families handle the after math of suicides that touched them. Finally, Jill recalls Kim's life and what may have led up to her killing herself.

By no means is this an enjoyable read, but a fascinating story well told.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, March 9, 2011
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This review is from: History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life (Hardcover)
A tragic story told so beautifully--with so much skill, intelligence, insight and care--that it is impossible to put down once you've started. This book is an act of courage and an act of love, a gift to everyone.
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intensely personal exploration of a tragedy, March 2, 2011
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life (Hardcover)
Each year in the United States, some 30,000 people commit suicide and another 500,000 make the attempt. Jill Bialosky's intense, searching re-examination of her sister's suicide at age 21 tells the story of one such tragedy. But Bialosky's motivation and focus aren't purely personal. "Suicide should never happen to anyone," she writes. "I want you to know as much as I know. That is the reason I am writing this book."

In the early morning hours of April 16, 1990, Bialosky's sister Kim entered the garage of the Cleveland home where she lived with their mother, turned on the ignition of her mother's car, and fell asleep. By the time a young neighbor found her body, she had been dead for hours. Drawing on a rich store of memory and offering episodic glimpses illuminated by excerpts from Kim's journal and prosaic lists like the contents of her wallet at the time she died or an inventory of her room ("the entirety of her estate"), Bialosky retraces her sister's brief, troubled life. Born 10 years after the author, Kim was the child of her mother's second marriage (her first husband, Bialosky's father, died suddenly in his 20s), to a handsome, sociable and self-absorbed man whose abandonment of the family when Kim was three seems to have been the seminal event that set her life on its disastrous course.

What's most troubling about Kim's story as Bialosky unearths it --- "an archaeologist uncovering the relics of the past, searching for truth from fragments" --- is that there's no sense her destiny was foreordained. Her experimentation with drugs and alcohol, her struggles in school, even the painful end of her relationship with a drug dealer boyfriend whose own life culminated in suicide several years later, were episodes not markedly different from those experienced by countless young women. And yet, somehow, some "all-consuming psychic pain" at the core of her being eventually overwhelmed her for reasons she almost certainly never fully understood.

Without sacrificing the intensely personal quality of her narrative, Bialosky explores questions about a possible genetic predisposition to suicide, visits a bereavement group and, near the end of the book, describes her encounter with Dr. Edwin Shneidman, an elderly suicide expert who pioneered the "psychological autopsy" in an effort to probe the minds and motivation of suicide victims. One can't escape a sense of frustration that even with this large and growing body of knowledge there's no way to prevent every instance of self-annihilation.

There's a parallel story here, and that's the one of Bialosky's own journey across the painful decades after her sister's suicide, as she struggled to understand what drove Kim to the act and wondered, like any survivor, whether, through some word or gesture, the outcome might have been different. Four months pregnant at the time of Kim's death, Bialosky loses that baby ("The trauma of losing my firstborn and the loss of Kim to suicide have forever become tangled like threads in a rope.") and then loses a second child late in another pregnancy. She and her husband finally adopt a newborn, and the observations of her son's life as he moves from childhood into his teenage years are shadowed by her sister's story.

Bialosky, an editor, poet and novelist (her novel, HOUSE UNDER SNOW, tells the story of young women growing up in a household not unlike the real one portrayed here), brings that literary sensibility to the telling of this story in quiet, unaffected prose. Snippets of Shakespeare (52 of whose characters die by their own hand, she points out), Sylvia Plath, T.S. Eliot, and especially Melville, whose MOBY-DICK, "a treatise on the abyss and the inchoate and terrible power of inner demons," serves as a pervasive metaphor for the mind of a suicide, offer insight, if not always comfort.

One can imagine Jill Bialosky paging through a family album, its photographs, even the smiling ones, now edged irretrievably in black: "I have to remind myself that I am allowed to be among the living even though one hand holds the hand of the dead. And it is with each word I write, transformed by memory, time, and experience, that I relentlessly try to stitch back together what we have lost as if to make a quilt from which to draw comfort." That it took her some 20 years to produce this memoir is a testament both to the difficulty of revisiting the trauma and her determination to tell that story with sensitivity and honesty. The greatest tribute one can pay to this book is to acknowledge that by the time Kim's heartbreaking life reaches its conclusion, we mourn her passing as if we knew her.

--- Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poetry Garbage, May 12, 2014
I don't know what I expected from this book.I can tell you what I didn't expect though,a poetry book!
I grew so bored of all the poems and highlights from other books.
The author spends too much time telling mundane things about childhood,and not enough substance about the subject.
For instance,another reviewer asked why there are no photos of Kim.

Stopped reading halfway through,as it was so boring I was falling asleep.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult but worth the read, September 22, 2012
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Jill's younger sister Kim committed suicide at the young age of 21. Jill has spent years trying to not only cope with her loss, but also make sense of her sister's decision. Jill talks about going through her sister's writing, as well as police reports from Kim's death, to try to piece together the full picture. Through her journey, Jill learns about herself as well as her sister.

This book was intense, for mostly personal reason's. Before we were ever married, we lost a member of my husband's family to suicide, which is what really drew me to this book initially. This book certainly sparked a lot of emotions and conversation among my book club. The book raises a lot of questions about mental health from a family systems perspective. There were a lot of literary references, which I mostly greatly appreciated, and will certainly appeal to many readers. However, readers not as familiar with the works and authors discussed will not get as much out of them.

The thing that struck me as endlessly frustrating was the great casual tone to so much of the topics covered. Marital strife of Kim's parents, Kim's drug use, and both Kim and Jill having teenage abortions are mentioned in such casual manner, yet never delved into in terms of the possible impact of these things on Kim's mental state. It felt shocking to me that Kim's family seemingly knew she was deeply troubled, taking drugs, in an abusing relationship, yet did very little (at least as described by Jill) to step in.

The writing could have been a little tighter for my taste, as the style seems to shift between poetry, prose, and objective factual writing. It seems a bit like a stream of consciousness and for me it made it difficult to read. All in all the book was interesting, but difficult to read
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars insightful and helpful, March 26, 2012
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As a survivor of suicide, I was compelled to read the author's account of her own pain and survival. It was an open and detailed account of how life changes when you lose someone to suicide. It is a must read for all survivors of suicide.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suicide: A Cry for Help, April 6, 2011
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This review is from: History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life (Hardcover)
This is a good book in understanding suicide if you have witnessed an attempted or actual suicide. It was amazing the research Jill did to understand her sister's suicide. I purchased this book because a family member attempted suicide in my presence. I wanted to try and understand what goes through someone's mind when they feel this is the only way out or does it as a cry for help. Some of my thoughts and feelings were reinforced by reading it.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Derivative, January 20, 2014
By 
Compulsive Reader (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
I wish I could say that this book helped with the loss of my sib, but it reminded me a little too much of The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide. It seemed as though Bialosky basically lifted the entire premise of the book, but didn't do it half as well!
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History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life
History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky (Hardcover - February 15, 2011)
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