An account of the author’s obsession with a female Rhodes scholar who killed herself at 27.
In 1981, Teich (co-author: Trees Make the Best Mobiles: Simple Ways to Raise Your Child in a Complex World, 2001) was a senior at Yale. She was also among a tiny minority of women vying for a Rhodes scholarship, which had only just begun to be open to female applicants. Uncertain as she felt about herself as “a writer, a loner, a dancer, a Jew,” the author was nevertheless among those selected to attend Oxford for two years of postgraduate work. The scholarship afforded her many elite academic—and later, career—opportunities. Yet Teich never felt entirely comfortable with the idea that she would forever be identified with a born-for-success group of individuals educated to “fight the world’s fight.” Privately, she saw herself as a “toxic” woman with a perverse need for mistreatment from men and a tainted past that included a sexually abusive relationship with a dance teacher. Now a happily married woman with two children, Teich suddenly developed a morbid fixation with her daughter's personal safety. She also came across an obituary for another former Rhodes scholar who had died under tragic circumstances. Lacey Cooper-Reynolds was a golden girl hailed as “brilliant…radiant [and] beguiling,” but she committed suicide just as her life and career had begun to bloom. Fascinated by the young woman's story, Teich researched her background and history relentlessly. Like the author, Cooper-Reynolds was also an outsider, but one whose difference came of a modest background worlds apart from the high-society glamour of Oxford. As Teich pondered the pressures her Rhodes “sister” had faced, she had to confront her own painful past as well as the fears that now threatened to destroy the family she had struggled to create. Teich’s book is not just compelling for the way it plumbs the psyche of an outwardly driven and ambitious woman; it is also provocative in its questioning of what female success really means.
An honest, compassionate memoir about shaking off personal demons and finding “solace…liberation [and] joy.”