By Rhonda Johnson
October 07, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton

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This memoir by the eldest daughter of Pulitzer Prize- winning poet Anne Sexton, a suicide in 1974 at age 45, makes Christina Crawford’s Mommie Dearest look like a paean of daughterly love. Linda Sexton pummels readers with scenes of the flamboyant housewife/mental patient/poet passing out in her mashed potatoes, goading her husband into merciless beatings, and masturbating compulsively in front of her daughters. It gets worse (with graphic scenes of incest) and better, sort of, as Linda’s own experiences with mental illness lead her to an understanding of her mother’s tormented life. Obviously, writing this book aided that process, affording the author an opportunity for revenge, forgiveness, and catharsis. Yet a highly biased exposé of this sort raises troubling questions for the reader. Does it reveal obscured colors in Anne Sexton’s highly confessional poetry to know the ugly details of her breakdowns, addictions, and twisted relationships? Does it really benefit anyone other than the author as victim to delve so deeply into one famous family’s personal hell? I say no, but the minions of Prozac Nation would undoubtedly disagree. D

Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton

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  • Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton
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