Engebrecht’s raw account of the invisible ailment that claimed her daughter’s life.
“Tragic” hardly begins to describe the heartbreak of LauraJo’s struggle with borderline personality disorder, which her mother documents with the help of LauraJo’s journal entries, poetry and sketches. On the surface, LauraJo appears so typical that fellow patients in a mental institution wonder why she’s there. Yet her articulate daybook entries are filled with despair and feelings she can’t quite control, sometimes lurking just beneath her observations. “No one could ask or be more thankful for such a glorious day,” LauraJo writes after one outing. “Then darkness fell, the sun was gone and anxiety, doubt and thoughts of suicide returned. I truly believed earlier in the day that I had it licked.” Self-harm becomes an integral part of her life, as other journal entries mention several failed suicide attempts and the quest for something to make rat poison taste good. Decades after her daughter’s death, Engebrecht’s commentary is the voice of a mother who’s accepted that she’ll never have answers for some questions: “Why didn’t I see evidence of your self-abuse earlier?” she wonders. Whether she’s writing about a flash flood that destroyed the family home in mere minutes or LauraJo’s success as a tennis player and her struggles with her sexuality, Engebrecht lays bare the bones of her own life and her daughter’s. Rare technical slips, like the use of “flower” instead of “flour,” are irrelevant in the face of such honesty.
Reveals an extraordinarily talented individual who waged an epic struggle and, in her own way, won—for a time.