Franklin James Cook

Wickersham’s “Suicide Index” on Book Award Finalist List

In Grief on November 18, 2008 at 10:34 am

Joan Wickersham

Joan Wickersham

ORIGINAL STORY — The Boston Globe is anticipating tomorrow’s announcement of National Book Award winners with a story on Joan Wickersham’s The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order, which is a finalist for the award.

The Globe’s piece is not a book review per se; rather, it tells the story of Wickersham’s journey as she attempts to write about her father’s death by suicide:

In 1995 she began to write about her father’s death … She wrote a straightforward chronicle, then began a novel … In 2004 she went to … [a] writer’s retreat, and ended up abandoning the novel.

“Something about being there [at the retreat], having that time and privacy, made me start over,” she said, “and go about it in a more truthful, urgent, memoir-like way.”

The result of her renewed efforts is The Suicide Index, which Wickersham’s editor describes as “a form to go with her content.”

An index is a tool for searching … said Ann Patty … at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “It’s spare, rigorous, unsentimental.”

Wickersham explained: “My father, who was a familiar, loved figure, suddenly became a mystery … I wrestled with that for years, trying to restore him, to make him a complete person again, come up with a picture that is big enough to encompass all the contradictions.”

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