Searching for Mercy Street

Searching for Mercy Street

My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton

Book - 1994
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Baker & Taylor
The author recounts her mother's mental illness, their relationship, and the factors that led to Anne Sexton's suicide in 1974

Blackwell North Amer
Mother, are you listening? This is what I have seen and heard and learned. I am the forty-year old Linda and I am ready to speak back.
It has taken twenty years for Linda Gray Sexton to address these words to her mother, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton, who committed suicide on October 4, 1974.
Anne Sexton's chronic mental illness was the anguished center of her family's life. While there were wonderful days, long afternoons spent discussing books, poems, and feelings - watching her grow excited when one of my lines pleased her filled me with a shy ecstasy - the gentle moments were hard to remember. Too often, Anne's outrageous behavior made her children cower in fear for the stability of their family.
The bond between mother and daughter was never easy or clear. As a child, Linda was sent away from home for months - caring for Linda overwhelmed Anne, who confessed to having murderous impulses toward her daughter. Later, Anne would suffocate Linda with a capricious possessiveness Linda would learn to recognize as psychological and sexual abuse. I made myself numb, made my body like a stone in exchange for my mother's love. Linda eventually realized she had to break from her mother's toxic embrace in order to save herself.
Searching for Mercy Street is the product of an arduous emotional and intellectual journey of two decades, during which Linda Gray Sexton became an adult and a mother and discovered her own lyrical voice as a novelist; only to find herself fighting the same demons of depression she had watched control her mother. Was I turning into her? I wondered with a flat sort of horror. Had I become "her kind"?
Searching for Mercy Street is a story with which every mother and daughter will identify, because Linda Gray Sexton writes with profound honesty about this most formative of all relationships: our first. This daughter's memoir provides uniquely personal insights that no biographer or critic has - or could - have offered into the life of a mercurial, troubled poet. Searching for Mercy Street is the story of a woman fighting for her independence long after her mother's death, trying to heal herself by remembering the joy as well as the pain. It is both an act of love and an exorcism - and a riveting true story.

& Taylor

The poet's daughter recalls the dramatic mood swings, love affairs, and flagrant sexuality of her mother, as well as the intense and intimate relationship they shared despite the psychological problems that ended in her mother's suicide. 25,000 first printing. Tour.

Publisher: Boston : Little, Brown, c1994
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780316782074
Characteristics: 307 p. : ill. ; 25 cm


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