On April 13, 1990, Jill Bialosky’s younger sister Kim called to wish her a happy birthday. Two days later, after a night out with her girlfriends, Kim took her own life, asphyxiating herself with carbon monoxide in her mother’s garage, in her mother’s white Saab. She was 21. The tragedy forever changed how Bialosky felt about her place in the world, and it’s through History of a Suicide, a tender, absorbing, and deeply moving memoir, that she attempts to work through the kaleidoscope of grief that consumed her for 20 years.
Aching to understand why and how her sister lost the will to live, Bialosky interweaves family history, literature (Shakespeare, Dante, Melville, and Plath appear frequently), medical writings, and Kim’s own journals. The very nature of suicide, the author notes, is as elusive as the great whale Moby-Dick, and her writing reflects that slipperiness, circling in and out of memories and emotions. The portrait Bialosky presents of Kim is a vivid one: a sweet little girl surrounded by adoring older sisters, a sensitive teenager longing for her absentee father, and finally, a broken young woman who, as she wrote in her devastating suicide note, got ”tired of being lonely.” There are times when Bialosky’s pain is almost unbearable (shortly after Kim’s death, she lost two babies), but she’s never maudlin. She writes so gracefully and bravely that what you’re left with in the end is an overwhelming sense of love. A