Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton by Linda Gray Sexton
My rating: 4 stars
Wow. I've been wanting to read this book since I first heard about it as I am a huge fan of poet Anne Sexton. Although I'm a huge fan and I believe I've read every single poem she's ever published, I didn't know a whole lot about her life beyond her mental health issues and her suicide in the 1970s.
I found this memoir, by Anne's daughter, to be a very compelling and interesting read. It was difficult to read at times given the chaos and instability of Anne's life and its impact on her family. Although I admire Sexton's poetry, I am very thankful that I am not her child. Or her family member. Or her friend, for that matter. She cannot have been an easy person to care for at any point and time.
Personally, I found Linda Gray Sexton's memoir to be very disturbing but fairly balanced look at her mother's life and the impact that her mother had on the people around her. In fact, I felt as if her mother came to life as I read the book. In good ways and in bad. Given Anne's poetry, I was not surprised by much of the book. However, there were a few things that really gave me pause. Anne Sexton was obviously a very gifted poet but she was also a very disturbed woman who was destructive to those around her (and herself) in almost every way possible during her life. She's a fascinating woman to me for a number of reasons and I thought it was very interesting to see Anne Sexton from her daughter's perspective.
I don't know how enjoyable the book would be for someone who was not a fan of Sexton's poetry but I found it to be very compelling and interesting. I thought that Linda Gray Sexton was extremely brave to put pen to paper and talk so honestly about her mother and her own life. But, I will warn you, there is a great deal of raw content that may not be suitable for all readers - if physical, emotional and sexual abuse is too much for you to read about, you may want to pass on this one.
In the end, I found the book to be both compelling and unsettling. And, I feel like it really gave me a clearer understanding of Anne Sexton and the beautiful poetry she left us. Personally, I find her poetry to be some of the best of American Poetry but I am very unsettled by what she put her family (particularly her daughters) through as she struggled with her own demons. Very sad, poignant book.