All the Things We Never Knew, by Shelia Hamilton

Find in catalogThis is the recollection of a woman’s story of her husband’s bipolar mental illness and eventual suicide. It takes place in Portland, Oregon, and many of the locations are familiar, though it is not a book about places. It deals more with emotional places, following the unraveling (or maybe unveiling) of the difficulties of mind in bipolar disorder. It is also a resource, interspersing the chapters with short (1-2 pages) sections on topics in mental health that pertain to the circumstances.
This is a useful book, more of a sorting-out of the events than an in-depth experience. The author is a career newscaster, with a background in television and radio, and that has informed her style. It is also an asset in the researched remarks that help put the whole situation in perspective.
I did not realize there were 42,000 deaths a year in America due to suicide and self-inflicted injury, with proportionally higher rates in certain ages and groups. 117 suicides a day. This writer has helped to add a personal dimension to that statistic.

The Gathering by Anne Enright

The GatheringNot a cheery novel. The narrator is one of twelve children in an Irish family and her closest brother has just died of suicide. There is not much of a plot, more a description of the world of the family and their interconnections and reactions, their loving and hating. It is painful and often unpleasant, with detailed mentions of bodies and touch and aging. There are also, though, wonderful moments of writing – worth the reading. “Even my mother eats with a sudden greed, as if remembering how to do it.”

The progress of the book is through the days surrounding the funeral of the brother (“the gathering”) and of recollections of family history and secrets that may have led to his alcoholism and suicide.

It is very well-written, but a bit hard to get through.

Reviewed by Sue D.