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Her Last Death: A Memoir Hardcover – January 1, 2008
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Susanna's mother gave her a copy of Penthouse when she was a ten-year-old, cocaine when she was 12, and seduced her boyfriend at 14. Sonnenberg recounts "the true calamity of being daughter to this mother." The glory of this memoir is that the author survived her traumatic childhood and somehow navigated her way to a deftly written book capturing her dismantled youth. The daughter of a glamorous, falling-down addict of a mother and a gifted, self-absorbed father, Sonnenberg never falls into the trap of attempting to analyze two people never meant to be parents. Instead, we are allowed to feel the strange and powerful familial currencies running between mother and daughter through the keenly observed writing of Sonnenberg. The writing is razor-sharp and raw, a significant feat considering the untethered early years of this immensely talented writer. --Molly Jay
From Publishers Weekly
Sonnenberg's curse is her beautiful self-centered and crazy mother, who lies continually, does drugs and navigates through the world with sex as her sole point of reference. Her father is cold and distant. Add in abundant family money, and you have the story of a young girl who grows up in a world of privilege, abuse and despicable behavior all around. Readers get a good dose of drug use, foul language, manipulative behaviors, an accounting of Sonnenberg's affair with her high school English teacher and one chapter titled Sex with Everybody. The freelance writer's story is titillating, and her writing is strong and clear, though the power is diluted when she blurs the lines of nonfiction: I have conflated or changed some events and dialogue, and created occasional composites. Readers not bothered by the conceit will likely follow along through the outrageous and nasty operational tactics of Sonnenberg's mother until the story line leads to her redemption. (Jan.)
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Top customer reviews
Personally, I think Sonnenburg draws the story out a little too long, as many of the incidents evoke very similar feelings within the reader. After a while, it is aggravating, like scratching the same itch for way to long.
Overall, it is a good book, very engaging.
First off, if the memoir is true, then yes, Suzanna was definitely abused emotionally and physically. Daphne certainly exhibited behaviors of an addict, which provides toxic environment for children. But underneath the addictions, I believe that she has some form of mental illness - most likely borderline personality disorder. Daphne is/was a ticking time bomb of verbal abuse and physical abuse. Honestly, giving your daughter cocaine? How is that not abuse? Calling your daughter an "ungrateful ****?" Definitely emotional abuse. You don't just get over your mom pulling that kind of crap on you.
I hope Suzanna has found a good therapist to help her deal with the trauma of such an ill woman.
The book was slow in places, but not a bad read. It just jumped around a little more than I would have liked.
In brief, this is a heartfelt memoir of a child of privilege growing up with a largely disinterested father and an out-of-control, histrionic mother, part of a family in which everyone is screaming so loud for attention that no one can be heard above the din.
After years of competing for attention, the author discovers the peace and sanity of living an ordinary, peaceful life, devoid of the craziness of her youth. Although my life and childhood was mild by comparison, I can relate to this, being the daughter of an actor who dreamed of stardom, an accomplished sister, and a mother wanting to be treated as an equal. I discovered early on that being sick was the only way to be noticed in the midst of chaos.
Like the author, I eventually discovered that peace and sanity could only come from trying to achieve an ordinary, boring life, which I now crave and struggle to achieve.
I recommend this book for any reader who can relate to this circumstance, or to one who never experienced this chaos and wishes to understand it. It's fun, funny, sad, overwhelming, and inspirational, making the reader both fascinated by this lifestyle, and aware of the pitfalls and damage it can cause to the psyche and soul of the child of such a family.
I can't say that I didn't feel much disgust as I read this story, for both mother and daughter, but that's proof of how well Sonnenberg writes honestly about her life. She definitely wasn't trying to paint a pretty picture, and it didn't seem contrived and pretentious like some memoirs I've read. She just put it all out there to let us be the judge. Every twenty pages or so I had to turn the book over and look at her picture on the back, trying to match the details of her life to her face, as if it should all be plain to see in her eyes.
I was thoroughly disappointed when I came to the end only because I wanted more. I wanted things to be neatly tied up at the end. But "Her Last Death" is about life and not about things that are neatly tied up at the end.
David Allan Reeves
Author of "Running Away From Me"
Where I did start to get really invested was around the chapter titled "Choosing."
I'm sure bits and pieces can speak to many different people and I passed it on for someone else to enjoy.