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Facing the Wind: A True Story of Tragedy and Reconciliation Hardcover – April 3, 2001

3.8 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This true-crime story reaches beyond the relatively narrow focus of the genre to ask painful and provocative questions about guilt and forgiveness. In 1978, Bob Rowe, an out-of-work Brooklyn lawyer, killed his two sons, his daughter and wife by bashing their heads in with a baseball bat. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and after several years in a mental institution was released. He later remarried and had another daughter. Although journalist Salamon (Net of Dreams) did not interview Rowe before his death in 1977, this expertly crafted account is informed by diligent research and interviews with his second wife, Colleen, as well as with a women's support group to which Rowe's first wife, Mary, had belonged. This group was made up of mothers whose children, like Rowe's son Christopher, were born with severe physical impairments. One of the strengths of Salamon's sensitive narrative is her depiction of these mothers and how they dealt with the strain of raising disabled children. The Rowe's seemingly good marriage and his deep involvement in Christopher's care made Mary's murder all the more incomprehensible to the women, who never forgave him. Salamon adequately details Rowe's depression and subsequent mental breakdown that preceded the killings. She also describes how he painfully built a new life and found Colleen, who forgave him for his past. After her husband's death, Colleen met with the members of Mary's support group. Salamon provides a riveting account of this meeting, where Colleen attempts to explain why she loved her husband, and the women try to understand how she could forgive him. National publicity. (Apr.) Forecast: Salamon is a contributor to the New York Times, so this title will be widely reviewed-and many of those reviews will be highly positive. This book will have legs, and strong blurbs from Ted Conover and Anne Fadiman, among others, will give it a first big step.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This is the haunting story of Robert Rowe, a respected lawyer, loving husband, doting father and multiple murderer. It is also the story of the mothers of disabled children who came together at Brooklyn's Industrial Home for the Blind as members of a support group before the heyday of self-help gurus and groups for every affliction. Rowe was one of the few fathers actively involved with the group, and he was highly admired by the mothers. The book reveals Rowe's slide into mental illness, which led to his murdering his entire family, and his journey in life after the murder. For anyone interested in how parents cope with disabled children or how mental illness can strike anyone, this book will be a fascinating read. Well written and heavily researched, it clearly demonstrates Salamon's (The Christmas Tree, LJ 9/15/96) prowess and her journalistic roots. Readers will not easily forget this tale. Recommended, especially for true crime/psychology collections. Karen Sandlin Silverman, Ctr. for Applied Research, Philadelphia
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (April 3, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375500227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375500220
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,152,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How would any of us react if someone we thought we knew well, a respected member of our community, suddenly beat his family to death with a baseball bat? And how would we react if we knew he'd remarried years later and started a new family? As riveting as these questions may be, they are only part of what made this book so fascinating to me. What made it unforgettable was how it made me think about the limits of love and forgiveness and how several families were put to the test in circumstances as horrendous as this. Please be aware that this is NOT your usual true crime book, although it is based on true events and the writer does try to make sense of a crime most of us would consider senseless- the murder of 4 members of a family, the Rowes, by the husband/father of that family, a man considered by friends and neighbors to be a loving and attentive parent and spouse. But it goes beyond the murder to give a riveting, detailed portrait of several families and how they lived both before and after this crime tore apart their community. These families had one thing in common - all of them had children with physical or emotional disabilities and the mothers in those families belonged to a support group. The author of this book, Julie Salamon, shows how each person was affected by the challenge of having a handicapped child and how they turned to the Rowes for guidance and inspiration. While some readers might find this part of the book irrelevant and even tedious, I did not. It not only made me think about the unusual stresses faced by families who have children with special needs but it revealed the Rowe family through the eyes of those closest to them.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is no suspense about the facts of the story that forms the basis of this book. Bob Rowe, a loving husband and father, beat his wife and three children to death with a baseball bat in 1978. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and served approximately three years in a criminal psychiatric ward. Upon his release he remarried and had another child. This book isn't your typical true crime book. Julie Salamon isn't interested in finding out the truth about what happened - that's already widely known. Instead, the book is an invitation to consider some of the most difficult moral issues in our society: when does insanity excuse a crime?, should mentally ill patients be punished as well as treated?, is it possible to forgive the most horrendous crimes? Frustratingly, there are no definite answers and this case doesn't make the debate any clearer.
Salomon clearly did an excellent job of interviewing a wide variety of people who knew Bob Rowe before and after his crime. All points of view are represented, including unforgiving friends and colleagues and Rowe's extremely sympathetic second wife. Because the Rowe's second son, Christopher, was born severely disabled, the original Rowe family was intimately involved with a support group for parents facing similar challenges with their children. This group was the genesis of Salomon's book, and there is a lot of focus on these brave women and their relationship with Bob and Mary Rowe. Given her reliance upon the memories of these women, it is not surprising that one of Salomon's underlying assumptions is that the strain of raising Christopher somehow contributed to Bob Rowe's breakdown and subsequent murder of his family. I personally thought this was off base.
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Format: Paperback
My biggest problem with this book is that the author tries to make it more socially meaningful than it is by telling it as the story of a man "overwhelmed" by the responsibilities of caring for a severely handicapped child -- hence a person we can all relate to on some level.

But NOBODY in the story actually says that Bob Rowe was overwhelmed! Bob coped quite well for many years until his mother died. Then he began to have hallucinations that his mother was telling him to kill his WIFE (not his handicapped son.) As a result he was hospitalized and medicated. Unsurprisingly, the medication prevented him from functioning as a cracker-jack lawyer, as he had previously, and he began to lose jobs. He developed an obsession with his dwindling finances. Eventually he decided to stop taking his medicine. At that point, he was both out of a job and psychotic. BOB says that the precipitating cause of his murdering his family was fear that he could no longer provide for them.

One of the prosecutors interviewed for this book says exactly the same thing. He says it's a "male ego" thing which is not at all uncommon in men (but very rare in women.) The man feels that he is a failure, that he can no longer take care of his family, ergo he has to kill himself, ergo he has to kill all of them too, because how could they survive without him?

In all of the court proceedings NOBODY says that Bob Rowe killed his family because he was overwhelmed by caring for a handicapped child. In fact, it's pointed out that, of his three children, he killed his handicapped son LAST. Also, that he had many many occasions to kill his handicapped son in a way which would have avoid all suspicion. If the handicapped son were the big issue in his life, why kill the whole family?
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