When you kill yourself, you kill every memory everyone has of you. You’re saying I’m gone and you can’t even be sure who it is that’s gone, because you never knew me.”
Sixteen years ago, Joan Wickersham’s father shot himself in the head. The father she loved would never have killed himself, and yet he had. His death made a mystery of his entire life. Using an indexthat most formal and orderly of structuresWickersham explores this chaotic and incomprehensible reality. Every bit of family historymarriage, parents, business failuresand every encounter with friends, doctors, and other survivors exposes another facet of elusive truth. Dark, funny, sad, and gripping, at once a philosophical and deeply personal exploration, The Suicide Index is, finally, a daughter’s anguished, loving elegy to her father.
Instead of turning her back, novelist and short story writer Joan Wickersham chose to impose a kind of formal order on her father's suicide. He shot himself at the age of 61, and she writes beautifully, in her slightly scattered Suicide Index, about the amount of sheer space a suicide takes in the lives of surviving family members, from the moment of death through the weeks, months and years afterward. Rather than using chapters, the book is organized as index entries under the heading of "Suicide," with subheadings such as "attempt to imagine," "items found in my husband's closet," and "romances of mother in years following." The format seems intentionally arbitrary and idiosyncratic, perhaps reflecting the quality of Wickersham's experience…Bleak, strong and fiercely honest, this book will help anyone going through that process.