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Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Suicide, Survival, and Strength Hardcover – September 29, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Popular singer and writer Collins (Singing Lessons) centers this "monograph of tears" on her 33-year-old son's suicide in 1992, and the result is a frank and revealing personal work that should resonate with readers who have suffered a similar loss. Collins explores the roots of suicidal tendencies in her family, from her own attempt at age 14 to her father-in-law's suicide, which occurred when her first husband was only 10. She chronicles her son's battle against alcoholism and his seven years of sobriety, followed by a relapse and various suicide attempts before his death. Using excerpts from her journals, she details her own painful attempts to understand her son's actions, which include hungrily reading what seems like every book written on the subject of suicide. Heavily influenced by the works of noted suicide expert Edwin Shneidman (Comprehending Suicide), Collins comes to see that depression is "an illness, like alcoholism," but that depression alone does not drive people to attempt suicide; that suicide is less a decision than a reaction to psychological pain; and that "getting permanently out of my pain is not the only answer." The book's beauty is that Collins never presents her search for understanding in a mawkish or self-centered way. Her spiritual renewal, her efforts to reach out to others through suicide survival groups, and her commitment to "friends, therapists, habits of work and of life that take the power out of the depression" will be an inspiration and a comfort to those left behind.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Celebrity tell-alls can be counted on for some kind of feel-good, inspirational payoff, and Collins' book is no exception. Her only child, Clark, an alcoholic like his mother and both grandfathers, took his life while only in his thirties, a blow from which his mother hasn't recovered--what mother could from such a loss?--though she has managed to go on. That act of bravery informs the book throughout as Collins speaks candidly about her father's drinking as well as her own, her drying-out at Hazelden, and her search for grace. She wrote the book, she says, "to shed more light upon the dark taboo of suicide," and as she does, she brings her own dance with near-death to light. In the end, her report, even peppered with illuminating song lyrics and journal entries, speaks of the struggle to understand, cope with, and, after a fashion, accept personality, loss, and life. Collins tells her story engrossingly and engagingly, and her fans as well as those dealing with addiction and loss will want to hear it. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher (September 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585422606
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585422609
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #707,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As the mother of a son who ended his life in August (2003), I have been reading all I can about suicide, trying to understand my son's action. Judy Collins' book is a real blessing! While it contains much good factual information about suicide, it works best as a personal witness to the roller coaster of emotions that suicide imposes upon survivors. It is also immensely valuable for its insights into the mind of someone who battles depression ... something Collins has dealt with most her life.
Collins writes beautifully. I found myself reading some passages over and over, highlighting them with a marker, so I can re-read Judy's words when I get down and need an emotional boost.
Collins' work is deeply moving and, like her songs, often brought me to tears. Judy's words simply ring true. I could connect to so much of what she writes. I often found myself nodding and saying outloud, "yes ... that is EXACTLY how it feels!"
This is a MUST HAVE for anyone who is recovering from the suicide of a loved one. My suggestion: read first Carla Fine's "No Time to Say Goodbye," Then Iris Bolton's, "My Son, My Son," and then THIS BOOK by Judy Collins, which is by far the most poetic of the three. Also, I liked Collins' reading list at the back of her book and plan to read some of her selections.
I found all three above mentioned books to be very, very healing to the wounded heart and soul. (ONE MORE SUGGESTION - I bought "An Empty Chair: Living in the Wake of a Sibling's Suicide" by Sara Swan Miller, for my 21-year-old daughter. She said it has helped her immensely ... the book is FOR SIBLINGS of those who commit suicide ... you won't find many others devoted solely to siblings, and our "other" children need such books!!
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Format: Hardcover
Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Suicide, Survival, and Strength
by Judy Collins
Reviewed by Suzanne M. Retzinger, Ph.D.

"The streets of London have their map; but our passions are uncharted." (Virginia Woolf).

I was given a copy of Sanity and Grace by a remarkable man - Al Lowman - and was not sure at the time what I was meant to see. I read it to find out. I found a rare combination of expression of feeling and intelligent use of the work that has been done on suicide - woven together into a story. What I saw in Judy Collins's book was a roadmap of the passions. I read the story of a journey from the stigma and shame of a family secret - her son's death by suicide - into the open where healing begins to take place.

Breaking down the ancient walls of a taboo, Judy chose to build bridges, rather than remain behind the wall. She questions why a person would be defined by a moment in time when someone takes his or her life - why this moment would weigh more than all others. A mix of journal entries and prose shows the road from pain to light - and there is light.

Like many who suffer from the death of a loved one, Judy was told to stop talking about it, "get on with your life", "you're bringing others down". I hear this again and again from people who come to the bereavement groups I facilitate. Silence prevents healing - suicide is whispered she says, and "never quite shouted, as it should be, to the rooftops." She refused to stay silent, or to accept shame that would have been isolating. Instead she chose to express her pain. Talking is healing, and grief is the acceptance of that loss.

Judy gives a clear message: there is only one way to heal - right through the pain.
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Format: Hardcover
As a physician who cares for suicidal patients and survivors of suicide, this book brought me enlightenment. As a parent who has lost a child, it brought me tears. Now I understand the pain behind the beautiful music of one of my favorite singers, Judy Collins. As she says in her book, "we are all looking for the light".
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Format: Hardcover
Just this week in Joyce, Washington, a 12-year old boy--popular and happy by all accounts--took a rifle into his classroom and shot himself in the chest in front of his teacher and 18 classmates. Last month, a 12-year old in Seattle tossed herself off a freeway overpass. Judy Collins is a singer, songwriter, author, and actress, with many years of recovery from alcoholism. Depression, the "dog on the leash" often attached to alcoholism and addiction, plagued her since childhood. Her first husband's father killed himself. Nobody talked about it. Years later, at 33, Ms. Collin's son, after a period of sobriety, relapsed and then killed himself, narrating his own death on audiotape. Suicide is like child abuse, cancer, domestic violence, addiction: the attitude of many is "it's time to move on. Get over it." What Ms. Collins knows and tells eloquently in this book, which also features an excellent reference list of other books on suicide,is that those left behind never get over it. She postulates, instead, that suicide must be talked about. The writing in the book is a combination of songs, poems, journal entries, interviews with other writers on suicide, and anecdotes about Ms. Collin's own life. The writing is sometimes uneven, with breathtaking imagery juxtaposed with cliche or platitude, though I of course enjoy platitudes that come from 12-Step programs because I know what life-savers they are--and this is how Ms. Collins uses them. I "grew up" to the sound of Judy Collins'songs; when she appeared nearby in a concert nearly a decade ago, she never mentioned that her tour was part of her own therapy for her terrible sense of loss and hopelessness from her son's suicide. This singing and her writing lend hope.
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