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TERRY by George McGovern


My Daughter's Life-and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism

by George McGovern

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44797-0
Publisher: Villard

 An anguished account of the unhappy life of Terry McGovern, by a father still struggling to come to terms with it. Former senator McGovern learned in December 1994 that his 45-year-old daughter had frozen to death in a snowbank in Madison, Wisc., after a night of heavy drinking. The present work is his attempt to understand and to explain to himself and the world how this came to be. Terry, the middle of the McGoverns' five children, struggled with alcoholism and depression most of her life. Her adolescent years read like a parent's nightmare: an abortion, drugs, a suicide attempt, and an arrest for marijuana possession that threatened to send her to prison for five years and to end her father's political career. Both were averted, but soon afterward Terry was in the locked ward of a psychiatric center, where she was being treated for depression. McGovern includes excerpts from journals Terry kept over the years that reveal her drinking habits and her troubled state of mind. Except for an eight-year period of sobriety in her 30s, when she gave birth to two daughters, Terry's life is a saga of treatment programs, hospitalizations, and rehab centers--all invariably followed by relapses. McGovern quotes from stark police and detox center reports to depict Terry's degradation in her final months. This is not pretty stuff. Throughout, Terry is portrayed as the beleaguered victim, struggling against the double blow that fate has dealt her: a genetic vulnerability to alcohol addiction from her father's side of the family tree and to depression from her mother's. Although McGovern the politician cannot resist the occasional self-serving paragraph, and McGovern the parent tries too hard to convince us of his daughter's spirituality and nobility of character, his basic message that alcoholism and mental illness create a vicious circle of misery comes through loud and clear. (8 pages of b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)