Friday, April 11, 2008

Her Last Death

By Susanna Sonnenberg

This is a memoir about the author and her mother, called in this story Daphne, not her real name. Daphne seems to truly love her two daughters, of which Susanna is the eldest. Daphne has a volatile personality and a tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol which leads to some sad and terrifying moments in her daughters' lives. Daphne also has a voracious sex life and she shares the intimate details with her daughters. Daphne has a pathological need to be in the spotlight and goes so far as to manufacture fake rapes and fake illnesses like cancer and leukemia. Living with Daphne had to have been a real burden.
One of the cruelest things Daphne did to her daughters was to expose them to sex at an early age. Not only did she describe her intimate sexual trysts to her children, she wanted Susanna to get fitted for a diaphragm at the tender age of thirteen and she tried to set Susanna up to lose her virginity on the occasion of her sixteenth birthday.
The list of Daphne's sins is too long for me to recount. Still, Susanna remembers tender moments, fun moments, times when it is clear that her mother loved her kids in her own warped, peculiar way. The story starts out with Susanna getting the bad news that her mother has been in an accident and is in a coma and may not survive. Susanna makes the hard decision not to go see her mother in the hospital. Sometimes, when dealing with an addict, the only thing you can do to protect yourself from their lying and manipulation is to simply cut them out of your life. It's harsh but necessary and that is the decision Susanna made and this book is the story behind that decision.

Susanna led quite a life before settling down to motherhood and responsibility in Montana, thousands of miles away from the hotshot lifestyle she used to lead in New York City. Before she met her husband, Susanna was well on her way to living a lifestyle very similar to her sex-obsessed and drug-addled mother. What a story!

Review by Carolyn See in The Washington Post.

New Words:
Cristofene: a tropical West Indian vine, Sechium edule, of the gourd family, which bears small white flowers and produces an edible fruit. Also called christophene, chouchou, chayote. "She'd [Daphne] pluck a grilled cristofene from my plate, and the smell of her tea rose perfume overwhelmed the fragrance of the food."
Vaporetto: a motorboat for transporting people along the canals in Venice. "Hubert de Givenchy was staying there, too. My mother said, 'He just got on that vaporetto!'"

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