Book Review – Her Last Death by Susanna Sonnenberg

Her Last DeathHer Last Death by Susanna Sonnenberg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I usually enjoy reading memoirs but I found this one to be so tedious.  I’m actually amazed I finished the book.  Sonnenberg’s memoir is about growing up with her drug-addicted and promiscuous mother, Daphne. Daphne grew up a privileged, well-connected (and there is A LOT of name dropping in the book) spoiled young girl who never quite seems to grow up.  Sonnenberg can never trust her mother because she’s caught her in so many lies, from pretending to sleep with one of Sonnenberg’s boyfriends to having cancer or being raped.  Daphne gives Sonnenberg her first hit of cocaine and was physically abusive on occasion when she was high.  I grew so tired of hearing of Daphne’s antics and explicit and frank talk with her very young daughters about sex, it was no wonder to me why Sonnenberg had eventually tried to break all ties with her mother.

After reading about Daphne’s lying, drug-use, promiscuity, spending money without consequences, manipulations, and non-stop talking I began to wonder if she had ever been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  Later in the book Daphne says that she is now on Depakote, a Bipolar drug, and Sonnenberg mentions that her mother is finally stable.  Until she stops taking them.  Being raised by an unmedicated person with BPD would be exhausting, frustrating, and emotionally damaging for any child.

Half way through the book, the narrative stops focusing on Daphne’s behavior and Sonnenberg switches gears to her own promiscuity.  She even has a chapter entitled “Sex with Everybody.”  It leads the reader to believe that Sonnenberg has become just like her mother.  She admits she lies constantly and doesn’t know how to have a real, long-lasting, emotionally intimate relationship.  She uses sex as a way to feel alive, real, and powerful.  Eventually Sonnenberg meets a stable person, who for some reason is attracted to someone who perpetually lies and even cheats on him with a one-night stand with a woman.  They move to Montana, get married, and have two children.  Despite her childhood, Sonnenberg is determined to be a better mother than her own.

I was waiting the entire book for the big insights from Sonnenberg that never came.  All I came away with was a story of a crazy mother and how her daughter emotionally removed her from her life.  No lessons learned, no how she is moving forward.  The entire story felt very empty to me.

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Book Review – Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

Broken for YouBroken for You by Stephanie Kallos
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos.  It is about Margaret Hughes, a woman in her 70s who has just been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Since her son’s death and divorce from her husband, she has lived a sequestered life in her mansion in Seattle, looking after her “things.”  Those things turn out to be antiques that her father use to sell in his antique shop.  After Margaret learns the origin of these antiques, she closes the shop, moves all of those things to her mansion and locks herself away as punishment for the sins of the father.  After her diagnosis, Margaret decides to do something she’s never done before – take in a border.  This is how Wanda Shultz, a professional theater stage manager, comes to live with her.  Over the course of a few years, we see how Margaret’s, Wanda’s, and one special woman’s life intersect over the secret of Margaret’s antiques.

I really enjoyed this book.  It did take me a while to get into it, because it’s a very different kind of book, but after a few chapters I found myself invested in Margaret and Wanda’s stories.  I really enjoyed the imagery Kallos paints in this book.  I felt the over-arching theme of this book was about finding family, even when that family is not blood related.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves a good fiction story, but for those who do not like an f-bomb dropped every once in a while, I would not read this book.

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