When The Past Haunts: IN HER WAKE
Written by
Randy Susan Meyers
November 2010
Written by
Randy Susan Meyers
November 2010
“The day my mother killed herself, she had just finished preparing her house on Marlborough Street for the anticipated return of her children after a fierce custody battle with my father. There were six of us and much to do.” I tend to read very fast, often too fast. While reading IN HER WAKE I forced myself to slow way down, because I didn’t want to miss a sentence, or let a single thought go unread or undigested. Nancy Rappaport’s gripping story is entwined with a depth of easily understood research, so much so that as I followed in Rappaport’s wake, as she uncovered her family secrets, so to did I begin to understand some of my own. Who doesn’t continue to examine their past through out their life? When my mother was in her late seventies, she asked me to find information about her lost father—still seeking reasons why he’d chosen to have two families. My mother went to her last days puzzling on her father’s bigamy. Nancy Rappaport didn’t wait this long. Her mother, committed suicide when Nancy was barely four. Many years later—the author now herself a mother—sets out to discover why her mother left her in this manner. She takes us on her discovery in such an up close way, we feel as though we’re walking beside her, also anxious for clues, for truth, for some morsel of closure. This is an achingly honest read—the only times the author flinches at revealing facts and feelings is when she tells us that she’s flinching. So embracing is her writing, that we understand and sympathize. Her father, her stepmothers, her eleven brothers and sisters (siblings connected through a variety of parents) are reading over her shoulder and are often unhappy about the family ground being turned over. Silence has weighed down Nancy Rappaport’s family since before her mother’s death. Family silence can wrap each member tight enough to choke out life and love—but Rappaport finds and shows the tender love she feels towards her father, even as she examines his role in her mother’s decline as she devolved from a woman spinning in circles of achievement to a mother finding her final answer in a handful of pills. Rappaport is a grieving daughter searching for the comfort of reason. She is also a child psychiatrist, schooled in investigation, comfortable in teaching, and excellent at synthesizing research. IN HER WAKE in a book for any who’ve had divorce, death, infidelity, and neglect touch their lives. I thought of my sister and I sneaking into my mother’s purse and remembered being nabbed for shoplifting on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn (after my father’s death,) when I read this passage: “When I think about my ‘sticky fingers,’ the observation of revered British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott—that when an adolescent steals, she is looking for something that she has a right to, that she is making a claim on her mother and father because she feels deprived of their love—seems a plausible explanation for my impulse to steal . . . I stole rock candy and Sugar Babies on the way home. I stole pencils and colored flair pens. I did

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