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Suicide Is Painful

Suicide Is Painless is the title of the theme song to both the movie and television series M*A*S*H (and one of the first songs I learned to play on the piano). I've just read three books that involve suicides in one way or another (some spoilers ahead) and they show how suicide painfully affects the ones left behind.
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Hasslett delves into bi-polar disorder before it was called that. Married couple Margaret and John are seemingly able to cope for a long time with John's bi-polar disorder, but fail to realize how it tough it is on their children and how the oldest, Michael, seems to have inherited the disease. John's suicide changes each family member in a different way. I was bothered more than a bit with how Margaret was portrayed. She seemed so together and strong and powerful at the beginning of the novel and then so lost later. It just seemed to me that her personality changed too much. When  a second suicide happens late in the novel, it's almost a release for some of the other characters. Still, this is a novel filled with sadness. I liked it, but due to the changing narrators, had a hard time getting to know any of the characters really well. It was smart not to set this story in the present day where there would be more treatment options for John.
You don't know about the suicide in Ill Will by Dan Chaon until the very last quarter of the novel. And by then it almost doesn't matter. This is a novel about psychosis and the reader gets to witness a man losing his mind in one of the most imaginative novels I've every read. You will feel Dusty's mind unravel. He is not the suicide but rather a witness to some horrific deaths. It's difficult to say too much about this novel. It's not an easy or light-hearted read. It's not for the faint of heart. Reading it is at time painful. (Yup, that's all redundant, but I wanted to drive the point home.) Like Imagine Me Gone, the story is told from various view points and Chaon has done a masterful job.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi is also told by multiple narrators. I guess in each of these books that's the way to get across the grief of each family member. Husband Brady blames his work habits and his personality on his wife's death. Did he show his love enough? Daughter Eve blames herself. Was she a bad daughter? Madeline -- the dead mom -- works to help from from "beyond" to smooth things over and help them move on, even while she struggles with her own death and history. I do not want to spoil the ending of this book. There is a fairly big twist (you may spot some hints) that makes everything that came before seem either far too sad or entirely worthwhile. But how can a mom's death be worthwhile? I know I had a good cry at the end that brought about the catharsis I needed.


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