Her Last Death
By Susanna Sonnenberg
(Scribner Book Company, Paperback, 9780743291095, 273pp.)
Publication Date: October 2008
List Price: $15.00*
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Her Last Death begins as the phone rings early one morning in the Montana house where Susanna Sonnenberg lives with her husband and two young sons. Her aunt is calling to tell Susanna her mother is in a coma after a car accident. She might not live. Any daughter would rush the thousands of miles to her mother's bedside. But Susanna cannot bring herself to go. Her courageous memoir explains why.
Glamorous, charismatic and a compulsive liar, Susanna's mother seduced everyone who entered her orbit. With outrageous behavior and judgment tinged by drug use, she taught her child the art of sex and the benefits of lying. Susanna struggled to break out of this compelling world, determined, as many daughters are, not to become her mother.
Sonnenberg mines tender and startling memories as she writes of her fierce resolve to forge her independence, to become a woman capable of trust and to be a good mother to her own children. Her Last Death is riveting, disarming and searingly beautiful.
"Her Last Death recounts 'the true calamity of being daughter to this mother,' and the wonder of this memoir is that the author survived her traumatic childhood and found a way of turning her memories into a fiercely observed, fluently written book...Writing in sharp, crystalline prose, Ms. Sonnenberg... plung(es) readers into a sort of perpetual present tense in which we are made to experience, almost firsthand, the inexplicable and perverse behavior of an impossible woman from the point of view of her aghast, bedazzled -- and immensely gifted -- daughter." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"An irresistible book that is shimmering with life and the portrait of a glorious, frenzied, seductive woman who of necessity has been left, along with Susanna Sonnenberg's young womanhood, behind. Her mother."
-- James Salter, author of Last Night and Burning the Days
"Riveting, sexy, smart, and brazenly honest, Her Last Death is a memoir that demands and rewards total immersion. I couldn't put it down, didn't want to, and was sorry when it was over. Susanna Sonnenberg is a wonderful writer, and this is a marvelous debut."
-- John Burnham Schwartz, author of Reservation Road and Claire Marvel
"Her Last Death is an emotional thriller. It is a manual for men and smart, searching individuals of any age or economic levels. For most of the book it is a disturbing story, yet at the end you might feel like cheering. It is a beautiful, beautiful book and I plan to give it to my nearest and dearest."
-- Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes and Teacher Man