One woman's attempt to comprehend and ultimately learn to live with the fact of her mother's suicide. When Hammer was nine years old, her mother killed herself, carefully planning the act to protect her daughter from possible physical harm; what she could not protect her from was grievous psychic harm. While her father and three older brothers found refuge in denial, young Signe, her mother's alter ego, assumed a mantle of guilt and self-hatred. Although as an adult (with years in analysis) she came to understand that her mother's act probably had little if anything to do with her, by then its impact on her had irrevocably shaped her life. Here, she looks at her own past and traces her family's history in a kid of psychogenealogy, seeking the forces that impelled her mother to choose death. Hammer's memory of early childhood events is at times rather astonishing, and her conclusions about the attitudes and behavior of long-dead ancestors may not be totally convincing, but she has a poet's eye for images, and those she selects have a truth of their own. This memoir reveals not only Hammer's struggle to understand her mother's suicide, but also her long search for the real person her mother was and her equally long search for her own real self. A harrowing tale of survival in a truly dysfunctional family.