When Anne Edelstein was forty-two, her mother, an experienced swimmer in good health, drowned while snorkeling in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Caring for two small children of her own, Anne suddenly found herself grieving not only for her emotionally distant mother but also for her beloved younger brother Danny, who had killed himself violently over a decade before. To find peace in the future, she must wrestle not only with the past and her family’s long history of mental illness, but also with the present and the growing emotional needs of her children. Part memoir and part meditation on joy, grief, and the other extreme emotions that make families so impossible and so indispensable, the book will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to come to terms with their siblings, their parents, their children, and their place in the larger familial constellation.
“Loss, grief, and ‘the proof of love’ are at stake in this poignant and penetrating memoir of a daughter’s quest to understand her elusive mother, the suicide of her beloved brother, and the mystery at the heart of the will to live.”–Jill Bialosky, author of History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life
“Anne Edelstein maps the tragic legacy of her brother’s suicide and her mother’s accidental death with grace and fortitude, shedding light on the darkest of secrets. In the quotidian domain of family life, she finds the simple poetry of love and forgiveness. Lifesaving for Beginners is a soaring tribute to the ties that bind us, what makes us whole as human beings.”–Anne Landsman, author of The Devil’s Chimney and The Rowing Lesson
“As if in the eye of a hurricane, Anne Edelstein writes courageously about the deaths that swirl about her. Calm, clear, moving and oh so poignant, Lifesaving for Beginners is a breathtaking portrait of our fruitless efforts to shield each other from the most painful aspects of life. Her book points in another direction and it is indeed a lifesaver.”–Mark Epstein, author of The Trauma of Everyday Life and Going to Pieces without Falling Apart
“While dramatic events set this memoir in motion, the triumph of Lifesaving for Beginners is that its heart lies not in the large ruptures of life but in the reconciliations that arrive quietly and routinely. I admire–and envy–the writing in this book. Its smooth surface belies its depths, much like the open waters Edelstein swims in as she seeks her own calmness and consolation.”—Kathleen Finneran, author of The Tender Land
“In this stunningly eloquent memoir, Edelstein grieves for her mother’s drowning to unearth an even deeper grief–the one for her brother who killed himself fifteen years before. In what can be the sometimes garrote of family (as well as its absolute joys) alongside a legacy of mental illness, Lifesaving for Beginners is a graceful GPS for finding your safe shore, no matter how distant it seems.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World