on February 12, 2012
Memoirs are not my favourite books to read. Very often, when I get review requests for them, I find a kind way to turn them down. When Leila Summers approached me asking if I would review her memoir, It Rains in February: A Wife's Memoir of Love and Loss I must have been having a particularly off day because I said yes. Thank goodness for that particularly off day.
It Rains in February is written from the point of view of the author in the form of a sort of letter to her late husband outlining the fear, pain, love and agony she experience as he was sucked into a vortex of mental illness that eventually resulted in his suicide.
What surprised me the most about this epistle is the gentle and honest tone of the writing. Leila Summers (aka Robin) bares her soul in her writing and allows the reader into, what must be, the most painful and personal moments in her life. She doesn't try to excuse her decisions or behaviour or the behaviour of Stuart, her husband. She doesn't place blame for his illness or his actions on anyone. She simply (I can't believe I just used that word - I'm sure none of this was simple at all) opens her heart and lets it bleed over the pages. The result is a powerful, honest, loving remembrance.
For anyone wanting to understand mental illness from the point of view of those who love the sufferers, this book should fall into the category of required reading. For anyone who has ever said 'I don't understand how someone could kill themselves.' It Rains in February should be required reading. For those suffering from a mental illness wanting to understand how anyone could love them ... you get the idea.
Kudos to Ms Summers for having written about a devastating, life-altering experience without succumbing to sappy, overly sentimental drivel. There were many times, as I read the book, that I wondered how I would react if faced with similar circumstances. We all will face calamities in our own lives. I'm sure that we will all make our own decisions based on our belief systems and life experiences. One day, when I look back over the difficult times in my life, I hope I will see that I have dealt with them with the same grace, forgiveness and love that Leila drew upon during this time in her life.
on December 2, 2011
This book captured my heart from the beginning. It is so completely and intimately written that I felt immersed in this family's true life experience.
The Author, Leila (aka Robyn), through her depth of sincerity in this book has helped me to more fully understand what it really means to love and accept someone you truly care about.
My hope is that other people will read this book because it is one of the best I've come across. I cried, I laughed and it has most definitely impacted how I now view my family and friends that have shown signs of emotional suffering. Ann Carlson.
on February 3, 2012
From the moment I began reading, it was hard to put this book down. I can honestly see this story as a movie on the big screen one day.
Through out this book, I laughed and cried and in-between, I felt all sorts of emotions. The gifts I received from reading this book are many and the impact it has had on me is powerful. Robyn is one of those rare souls that come into this life and shows us what it really is to love deeply, honestly, unconditionally, without judgment and wholeheartedly. There is no weakness in this.... for I believe it takes great strength and courage to see, feel, experience and listen with heart first. While this book gave me great insight into the tortured heart and soul of one who is mentally unwell, it also felt like a spiritual journey of sorts. Through Robyn/Leila's writing, I got to experience the power and beauty of her forgiving heart . Being witness to this was healing for me in my own life in so many ways. Leila's ability to be honest and yet tender with her children through out such a horrific time is deeply inspiring and moving. Truly, I am in awe of the woman and mother she was through such a horrific experience.
How many people in this life can look beyond the hurt and pain someone has caused them in their own life, to get to the depths of that persons tortured heart, and walk with them through it all, to be understanding and feel that pain and hurt for them, even while you are in so much pain?
This story is a powerful one... I think it will cause you to ask yourself many questions about who you are as a person. It will trigger all sorts of emotions, perhaps, anger... deep sadness, fear, and pain but I think it will also ignite emotions that are deeper than all of them, the most powerful of all, that being love. If you allow your heart to open to the greater message I found in this book, one of loving with understanding and actually living, experiencing, seeing, feeling, touching and listening with big heart, I think you will find this book awe inspiring, and you will be left with a sense of peace and hope.
Beautifully written, I am so glad I found this book.
on August 13, 2012
This book is riveting and powerfully written!
The fact that her husband was so verbose in his pain gives the reader a valuable insight into what might be going through the head of someone who is ill enough to take their own life.
Others may criticize the author for enabling or standing by allowing herself or her children to be a victim of this man's illness but it is only because they have not lived with someone in the depths of depression.
You believe the person you once knew still lies within them and can be reached. You protect your children by letting them see the good in their other parent and shielding them from the dark the best you can.
After reading this book I challenge anyone to tell what they would have done differently that would have changed the fateful outcome of the story.
on December 18, 2011
I was asked to review this book, and while I enjoyed it, it's difficult to separate the written word from the heavy emotional content of the story itself. I can say without hesitation that this book is ingeniously crafted and well written.
The reader understands from the beginning that this husband and father is doomed to suicide. The story is the cracking of the family relationships, the love and the agony, the controlling and the letting go. I say that it is about his two wives because when his wife Robyn gave up on saving her husband's life, she invented an email friend, Leila Summers, who could perhaps lure him back to an appreciation of life that he had lost.
More than anything else, I saw this story as the love of parents for their children. Stuart's parents loved him so much that they were blind to his real discussions of suicide. Stuart loves his children so much that he put off his suicide for as long as he could hold out. His mistress loved her children enough to stay with her own husband and patch up their marriage. And above all, there is the author, Stuart's wife, whose pain is a perfect trifecta of love for her husband, his undying and agonizing love for another woman, and the author's love for their children. She keeps these three prongs of her life separated to the very end, unselfishly spreading herself far too thin.
It is too easy to see the story in hindsight and offer free advice along the way, wishing Robyn would let go of Stuart, wishing Stuart would let go of either his madness or his life and end everyone's suffering. But ultimately, the story is what it is, and I found a great deal to identify with along the way.
My final wish is that the children of Robyn and Stuart will know that they were greatly loved and that they can refuse to let the past define them. But the book leaves me hopeful for eveyone's future.
-- Java Davis (Kindle Book Review)
on April 22, 2012
I started reading this book and though I don't have a lot of time to read these days, I couldn't put it down. The story is sad and had me hooked from the start. The author, Leila, (Robyn) was brave to write it and it must have been hard, though it probably helped with the healing process. It was quite frustrating in parts as you want to shake her for letting her husband treat her the way he did. Though he was suffering from depression, he was in love with another woman and kept telling her that if he couldn't have her, he would kill himself. The other woman happened to be a friend of theirs and although she apparently loved him back, she chose to stay with her own husband and children. The MC, Robyn, supported her depressed husband and kept trying to get him to seek medical help for his depression. He refused and moved out of their home and many miles away in the hope that his new love would join him. She didn't and his depression got worse, though he still had a relationship with his wife and she visited him often.
Robyn had to accept that her husband wasn't in love with her anymore, but kept helping him with everything because she still loved him. plus they had two little girls who he adored and them him. Robyn even went as far as to beg the other woman to visit him in the hope that he wouldn't attempt suicide again. She also tried to get him to see a psychiatrist and go to a hospital, but he threatened to kill himself in there if she arranged it. Should Robyn have kept helping him and sacrificing her own well being for years on end? I'm not sure, but she did what her heart told her to do and no matter what she did, the outcome would have probably been the same. Even if she had forced the issue of having him taken to a mental health hospital and put on antidepressants, he still could have killed himself. Mental illness is so complicated and no one can know if even a medication can help certain people. My thoughts are that Robyn tried her very hardest to keep him alive, for himself, his children, and for her. She was totally selfless, which is rare in this world. My sadness was also for the children who must wonder why their daddy didn't want to stay alive - to be with them. Hopefully, when they're older, they will do some research on mental illness and realise that even their father had no control over his own life and death, and that he was unlucky enough to have had a chemical imbalance through no fault of his own.
I actually think he may have fallen for the other woman because of his mental illness, and it was probably just infatuation, maybe he enjoyed the high of being in love as an escape from his dark thoughts of death. Had he spent time with this woman he may have even gone back to his wife and children. After reading all his letters in the story and his desperation to be with this other woman, it seemed to me that it was her rejection that he couldn't take. Maybe he had self esteem problems, maybe not, but that's just my thoughts. He was probably already depressed before meeting her and that rejection made it worse.
Depression can be cause by many things, firstly the person usually has the inherited gene, and then if other things happen, like losing a family member or pet, as well as financial problems, it can trigger it off. Maybe even a fear off being left alone or work issues or loss of a friendship. In this story the husband had lost a dear pet that was his best friend and I'm sure that affected him more than he let on. I've known people who were depressed for years after losing a pet. Our pets are our babies, so it's understandable. But with this man it was much more complicated. He chose his own future and now the family are left behind to pick up the pieces. I think there is no one to blame. It's just all too sad and I hope that the author can find closure and meet someone who'll give back all the unconditional love to her that she gave to her husband. I'm sure with a mother like they have, the children will grow up strong and healthy and with compassion just like their wonderful mother. And to the other woman, well she must feel bad too and probably guilty. I don't think she should though. None of it was her fault, after all, it seems she sacrificed her own love for this man, probably for her children and her own husband, who she'd made vows too. Good luck to all of them.
I highly recommend this book to all adults and teens. There are people in many families that suffer from undiagnosed depression. The symptoms are not always obvious. Look for withdrawal and don't let fake smiles fool you. If someone you know has been suffering from long-term depression, and has been threatening suicide, then they suddenly seems really happy, it could be that they are planning suicide that day. They may not be, but it's worth watching them, just in case.
on December 20, 2011
I was admiring Robyn for her strength and her constant care, love and worry for Stuart. I always imagined what I would be like if my husband ever told me about someone else, in this story her name is Amanda. Would I shocked, historical, irrational?? You can sense that Robyn wanted to be all this things, and some. But she turns out to be calm, accepting and caring. Through all this she points out that she loves Stuart. Of course she is hurt, but I can help to feel that there was too much hurt his constant talking about Amanda being his life, only life. Forgetting about his kids and wife, even though he never did fail to mention that he cared and loved them all the time. It kind of feels like he is in this transit spell with Amanda. A women, that you can see plays with his emotions. Looking outside in, you also get the feeling of hopelessness and frustration. And than you start looking at this scenario and see how you would do things differently, you, yourself start going through the "What if's?" What if she would have found a better way to give him depressing pills? What is she would have just admitted him in against his will? Stuart in this tragic story was already lost, their was no saving and you can sense that in Robyn when she talks about just waiting for the call.And this is where I don't understand, why she just didn't do it? Stuart had mention that if she ever did, place him in a facility/asylum he would just kill himself. You can sense her dilemma, and even though she has so much strength she can't feel but hopeless. And you wish you could just tell her, "do it! The outcome is not that great in the outside world if you don't." In the end, its a heartfelt book and you can help but feel courage from the author to publish a story about such a tragic event in her life, her children's life.
on June 20, 2012
I bought this book just before leaving on a life-long dream trip to India. I had planned to read it during the long plane trip over there, as well as during the lengthy stopover in Dubai. I made the 'error' of reading a couple of pages during the days preceding my trip - and needless to say the book was completed before I set one foot on the airport tarmac!
This gruelling story drew me in so completely that I was hardly able to put the book down during the two days it took me to read it. Robyn's gift of story-telling holds her readers lightly yet tightly - so that you feel privileged but never patronised as she shares the darkest season of her life with you. In her sharing, she is generous and yet sensitive to her husbands memory - and likewise for the precious memories her daughters will always have of their father.
When I turned the last page - I was left with a surprising feeling of wanting to pursue my dreams even more vigorously - and ensure that I treasure and value each day I am given with my loved ones to the utmost.
on February 26, 2012
IT RAINS IN FEBRUARY is the heart-breaking memoir of love and loss poignantly told by Summers. I experienced so many emotions while reading this expertly crafted memoir; love, anger, frustration and above all sadness. Summers is frank and forthright in the telling of her husband's illness. Through emails she reveals the pain and torment he was going through; but also the torment he inflicted on her. Her unfailing steadfastness in trying to support him through this difficult time is remarkable. As I write this I am still enthralled with emotion, an overwhelming sadness at the loss of this talented man. I admire Summers ability to write so clearly of this difficult time.
This is a book that will stay with me, one I will not easily forget. My hope like others who have read and reviewed this book, is that it will be a comfort to others in similiar situations. But, most of all, I hope writing it has given Leila Summers the comfort she so rightly deserves.
on November 18, 2011
I couldn't wait to read "It Rains in February".
As a friend of the Author and as someone who had left South Africa prior to "Stuarts" death, I was not there during the time period that the book covers, I could only imagine what Leila was experiencing from the huge distance between us. I was keen for the book to "fill in the gaps" of a period of time that I missed and I hoped in reading it that I would be able to understand what had happened in the lives of my dear friends.
This is the first time and most likely the only time that will have read a book that concerns real life events of people that I know and love and I am in awe of Leila's strength and resilience not only in living through such an extended period of trauma, but in having the courage and resolve to put it in writing. I couldn't put it down and found myself laughing along with Leila at those tiny elements of her story that allowed humour and the sheer familiarity of what her text was describing, and crying at the sadness and raw pain that she and those precious to her and Stuart had to endure.
As sad as it is to "re-live" Stuarts death, I know that the writing of this book heralds a new start for Leila, Jane and Rose and I know that they have been healed not only through the passage of time but also through their sheer strength and quest to find a positive outcome from what was such a tragic loss of an astonishingly talented and beautiful man.
Please don't let the subject matter of Leila's story put you off of reading what is one family's story of love, loss and recovery.
He would have been so proud of you Leila and I hope as you move from your beloved Durban home so lovingly described in the book, that you can truly start that "country life" that you dreamed of!