I got this book because my mother has Borderline and I was hoping that reading about the experiences of other people would help me process my own experiences. I still have yet to finish the book, but here are some thoughts: 1) the author does a good job of describing “emotional enmeshment” -something that often occurs between a borderline parent and their child which is uncomfortable and hard for me to explain to people. She doesn’t actually explain the psychology of it but it happens in this book. 2) Her descriptions of her mother tend to be more glamorous than chaotic...not what I was hoping for. My childhood was much more hellish so I was disappointed by the lack of hellishness I could relate to.
It's my opinion that a good memoir should be half-art and half-psychotherapy. It should be sad at times and funny at others and mine all the motions in between. "Her Last Death" by Susanna Sonnenberg does just that. It's about the author's unconventional relationship with her drug-addicted, eccentric mother, who would rather be her daughter's friend, but is ultimately neither. She's a compulsively lying, shoplifting, scandalous, attention-seeking, spoiled-rich monstrosity instead. But with all her drug use, it would be impossible to be a good mother. The two really can't co-exist. If I could defend the mother's indefensible behavior, I would say that she's not a bad person who needs to be good, but a sick person who needs to get well. It's hard to separate the inexplicable behavior of the addict from the person her or she truly is. All we see is the behavior. I felt Sonnenberg's intense pain, humiliation, and conflicted love for her mother, but as a recovering addict, I also felt the mother's hurt. No one does that to themselves without feeling some degree of strong, psychic agony.
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"
First of all, let me preface this by saying that I give this 4 stars because I reserve 5-star reviews for masterpieces, and those are few.
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 read this book primarily to observe the organization and writing style as I begin writing my own book. In my opinion, Susanna does an excellent job of guiding the reader through a chaotic life. It is easy to follow the progression of time and the emotional tension. She artfully shows the reader the dichotomous relationship she had with her mother - one of awe, love and longing, and at the same time one of hatred, frustration and hurt.
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.
Didn't dislike it, but didn't love it. I've certainly read similar stories and memoirs. I get it and it doesn't surprise me how things turned out in the end. My frustration comes mostly from the difficulty in keeping track of names (especially when moved to nicknames) and timelines. Perhaps that just really solidifies the chaos of her upbringing, but it didn't work very well for 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.