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If You Knew Suzy: A Mother, a Daughter, a Reporter's Notebook Hardcover – April 20, 2010

23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“In this brave, funny, deeply moving memoir, [Rosman] shows readers how, even after death, love endures.” (People (3 ½ out of 4 stars))

“Rosman’s bittersweet search for meaning is compelling and at times hilarious…. These stories are about Suzy but also about a daughter whose compassionate (not to mention labor-intensive) reporting is her way of coping. They memorialize a woman who, even if you didn’t’ know her, begs to be remembered.” (Elle)

“More than mere memoir.... Rosman expertly counterbalances the bleak and grinding arc of her mother’s cancer with an inspiring tale of her quietly extraordinary life, and does so with irreverent humor, bracing honesty and the storytelling savvy of a veteran reporter.” (Christopher Walton, Detroit Free Press)

“Katie Rosman has a great gift for articulating the yearnings of daughterhood and the mysteries of motherhood. Reading her moving tale of discovery, we can’t help but contemplate the things we have yet to learn about our own parents-and about ourselves.” (Jeffrey Zaslow, coauthor The Last Lecture)

“Frank, funny, keenly reported, but also deeply moving, Rosman’s book journeys into that mysterious territory-the nature of family and the substance of love.” (Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief and The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup)

“After I picked up If You Knew Suzy, I couldn’t put it down. Katherine Rosman’s enthralling memoir presents a tender yet searching picture of a mother’s life, her death, and her lasting influence on her daughters.” (Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project)

“Rosman’s voice rings with truth, pain, and hard-won humor. . . . [A] bold, cathartic tale of a daughter’s search to find meaning in her mother’s death. She tells of her mother’s virtues and flaws with unvarnished honesty ... This book beats with a heart of its own.” (Janice Lee, author of The Piano Teacher)

“If Katherine Rosman’s detailed and heartfelt tribute to her mother doesn’t make you want to hug your own, I don’t know what will.” (Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There'd Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number?)

“How marvelous to sit beside a daughter exploring her mother’s life. If You Knew Suzy is about the joys of a family balanced by the heartbreaking complexities of death. Rosman is a dogged reporter whose eye for wonderful detail is enriched by the love and empathy of a devoted child.” (Isabel Gillies, author of Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story)

From the Back Cover

Faced with the loss of her mother, Suzy, to cancer at sixty, Wall Street Journal reporter Katherine Rosman longs to find answers to the questions that we all wrestle with after losing someone we love. So she does what she does best: she opens her notebook and starts investigating.

Thumbing through her late mother's address book, Rosman embarks on a cross-country odyssey, tracking down total strangers from whom she hopes to learn about a woman she once thought she couldn't know better. With a reporter's eye for detail and nuance, Rosman creates a vivid, unflinching, and unforgettable portrait of a privately remarkable mother and woman. In the process, Rosman tells a universal tale of loss and love, capturing the angst families confront when wading through the world of doctors and hospitals, the poignancy and pain that come as a life ends, and the humor that helps transform sadness into a new and powerful brand of happiness.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (April 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006173523X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061735233
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,812,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Katherine Rosman was born in Detroit and raised in the city's suburbs. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1994. After college, she moved briefly to Washington, D.C. where she did an undistinguished turn as a receptionist at a law firm. From there she headed to New York City and got a job as a glorified Girl Friday at Elle magazine. No one fetched low-fat grande lattes with more aplomb.

After more than two years spent making sure "chic" and "from day to night" didn't excessively appear in the magazine's table of contents, she was hired to report for a start-up magazine whose mission was to go behind-the-scenes in the world of media, Brill's Content.

By 2000, she was working as a freelance magazine and newspaper reporter and filed dispatches for publications including the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Nation, Elle and New York magazine.

Katie was hired by the Wall Street Journal in late 2004 and has been reporting on pop-culture for the paper since.

She is married and has two kids. She lives in New York.

Check out a more complete biography at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Wendy Shanker on April 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of Katherine Rosman's journalistic work for a long time, always appreciating the personal investment she brought to objective writing. This book is the very best of both - a journalistic look at the most personal story in her life: the illness and loss of her mother, and the way her family responded to it. It's sad and funny and unflinchingly honest, and I think every woman will relate to it. As Katie unwraps the mysteries of her mom's life, she is able to see herself and her unusual family dynamics in a mature and idiosyncratic new light. I feel like I did know Suzy in all her daughter-loving, Pilates-teaching, Ebay-hunting beauty.

This book speaks intensely about how tough it is to navigate the difficult decisions a family has to make when faced with life and death medical issues. And it tells the stories of some of those people who show up out of nowhere when times get tough to make life a little more angelic for everyone around them. Mother's Day is coming up and this is the perfect gift for any girl to share with her mom - a reminder that there's more to a mom than her life as a mother, and to appreciate for the perfectly imperfect time you have with each other.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Kramer Bussel VINE VOICE on May 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If You Knew Suzy is unlike any memoir or biography I've ever read; it's intensely personal and poignant, yet Rosman is also every inch the journalist. In setting out to cover her mom's life, and death, she has a plan of sorts: to focus on the parts of her mom's life she didn't know much about, and to investigate why her mother was so reluctant to face the reality of the cancer that ravaged her.

Rosman takes her mother's handwritten address book and attacks it with vigor, calling everyone remotely associated with her mother. For me, it's some of the small details that stand out; her mother saying, "Take care of my eBay!" before heading in to surgery, her chastising Rosman for writing about orgasms.

Along the way, we learn about Augusta National and golf, a subject which I can safely say I have very little interest in per se, but Rosman personalizes it, from the story of getting her stepfather the chance to play at the famed (and famously exclusive) club to a woman who was Suzy's caddie and went on to a storied business career. In some ways, these side characters to the story are amongst the most fascinating, and show the ways that Suzy Rosin touched countless people. We get a Pilates history lesson and a look at a preacher who used his own grief to help many others; this cross-religious communication, a tale of the kindness of strangers, where Rosman's actions in the course of writing the book extend far beyond the page, is one that will stay with me for a long time.

Ultimately, If You Knew Suzy forces to the reader to ask the question of whether any of us would want to be reported on in such a way, by anyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peace and Joy on April 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've been reading "If You Knew Suzy" and feel completely refreshed by Katherine Rosman's story about her mother. To be honest, I think this should be a "must-read" for anyone who has grieved the loss of a significant loved one. What Katherine has managed to do is tell the story of familial relationships the importance and the imperfections of; especially that of a mother and daughter. She has embraced and portrayed the essence of her mother and those who "knew" Suzy in a respectful and relatable way. I believe her mother is dancing right now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tina Says VINE VOICE on July 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Katherine Rosman's dedication in her memoir reads "To my mother's grandchildren, so they may know her." First of all, I use the word memoir to describe this book with some reservation. Rosman's book reads like a memoir, but it is really not meant to chronicle her life so much as her mother's. The dedication lets readers know from the outset what this book's purpose is. What it doesn't tell readers is how heartbreaking and touching Rosman's efforts are. I predict that many a reader will wish they had someone willing to research and chronicle the lives of someone they love to preserve a part of them for future generations.

Rosman and her sister Lizzie shared a strong bond with their mother - much like many mother daughter relationships, full of ups and downs, shopping trips, fights, lunches together, phone conversations, advice given, ignored, and taken. When Suzy is diagnosed with late stage lung cancer, her daughters rally around her, providing support. They attend doctor's appointments, spend time in the hospital with her, and even help her place winning bids on eBay to further her collection of rare and beautiful glassware. For two and a half years Lizzie and our author put their own lives on hold to be there for their mother.

We know from the moment we begin reading that Suzy will eventually die from lung cancer and that her daughters will go on living without her. However, in order to do this, Rosman decides she wants to know more about her mother. Perhaps it is only to leave a record behind for her children and nephews and niece, that they may know their grandmother through her writing, yet part of this writing project also helped Rosman come to terms with her mother's death.
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