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Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton Paperback – 1 Apr 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; Reprint edition (1 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582437440
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582437446
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,063,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christine Frost on 20 Aug. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was attracted to the poetry of Anne Sexton in the late 1960s and early 1970s so when I stumbled across this memoir by her daughter I was naturally interested. I knew nothing of Anne Sexton's life apart from her confessional poetry and the fact of her suicide. To call this memoir harrowing is rather an understatement. Linda Gray Sexton grew up in a highly dysfunctional family and suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse throughout her childhood. Her painfully honest memoir is difficult to read at times. Brilliant poet but terrible mother, Anne Sexton suffered from severe mental illness which created a family life full of constant tension, uncertainty, drama and potential catastrophe. Linda's complex feelings toward her mother are laid bare - and it is hard to understand the depth of her capacity for forgiveness. It is hardly surprising that Linda's own journey through life following her mother's suicide has been difficult, and she is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beautifully written book by Linda Gray Sexton. Not always pleasant to read, but honest to the core. Essential reading for Anne Sexton fans.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Go hug your mom after reading this 15 Aug. 2005
By Manola Sommerfeld - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I read long ago the biography of Anne Sexton by Diane Middlebrook, and was very impressed by the tormented life of the poet. I also happened to read one of the novels written by her daughter, Linda Gray Sexton, "Points of Light", which I did not like all that much. So I had (I thought) an idea of who Linda was, both through the biography and her novel.

I was wrong. Searching for Mercy Street is truly what the subtitle claims: "A journey back to my mother". It gets so personal it is embarrassing at times. Linda goes into a lot of detail as to why she revealed things that you would never want anybody outside of your family to know, and it makes sense, and yet it doesn't. I have never read a better account of life with another person. It is not 100% chronological, but it is rich in detail and clarity. I read it with the anticipation I have sometimes when reading a very interesting novel.

Long time ago a friend said: "Your parents are probably the only people that you may love even if you don't like them". I have thought about that comment quite a bit over the years. Linda was conflicted over the relationship she had with her mother. There was the void of not having had a mom in the general sense of the term, not so much a June Cleaver, but more someone who takes care of you, looks after you, helps you, loves you. There was the abuse. And mingled with everything else, there was the unconditional love. The complexities of mental illness are true and clear and never better represented than in this story. I have to wonder: how much of Anne's behavior was pure selfishness, and how much was her disease?

I had to cry at some of the stuff, because you know the pain was real and strong, and there was no prettifying any of the horrible things that went on at that household. And at the same time I had to smile at certain things, like the tenderness in the relationship between Linda and her father. It was heartwarming, among all the raw pain.

The choice of photos complemented the writing perfectly. I loved reading this memoir, pain and sordid details and all.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Opened My Eyes 26 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I worked with Linda closely for a year when she had small children in the Mid-1980's. I was very touched and disturbed by this book. I found it to the point, but forgiving. I commend Linda for her resiliency and candor. I know that to write this book she had to rediscover many guarded memories. I encourage all to read it. Anne Sexton was a complicated, brilliant artist. Her life was fascinating to read about, especially from her daughter's intimate perpective. The poems that were included helped me to more fully understand the artist and woman through the different stages of her life. I hope Linda writes again.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Absolutely heart-breaking but written with love. 2 Jan. 1998
By Jennifer W. Miller - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I could not put this book down. Linda Gray Sexton's honesty was enlightening. She portrayed her mother as more than a woman with a mental illness. It is a portrait of a smart intelligent woman struggling to find meaning in her mentally ill life who at times rises above it but eventually succumbs. It is evident that Anne loved her daughters, but showed it in atypical ways. After reading this book, I find myself very interested in the work of Anne Sexton and her life. It gives a fresh and candid glimpse at this amazingly talented, yet tragic woman and a daughter who struggled to make sense out of her mother's love.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Honesty Can Be Pure Hell 20 Dec. 2004
By My Inner Chick - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"My mother died of depression. She took her life to end her pain." --Linda Gray Sexton

Living with Anne Sexton must have been like living in hell--and her daughter, Linda Gray Sexton, leaves absolutely nothing out of this book. She allows every dirty secret to emerge like a sort of bitterness filling the air.

Such as Anne's body lying on top of her-- "She's very heavy...I want to scream-get off, get off, get off!"--Linda Gray Sexton

Without Linda G. Sexton's honesty, "Mercy Street" would have been just another Mommy Dearest, but this was not. This book was about therapy, change, and forgiveness: this book was about new beginnings.

"Without knowing it, mother passes out to me her powers of observation. She shows me how to watch, how to see, how to record what transpires in the world around me. This is how I inherit her greatest gift..."--Linda Gray Sexton

"Searching for Mercy Street" was about rising above an environment which could have easily turned one into the same monsters you coexisted with--

But Linda Gray does not only show the reader the monster, the molester, the mentally ill, Anne Sexton-- she shows us the victim, the darkly depressed poet-- who without writing, would have killed herself long ago; she shows us a mother who did the best she could,even while walking through the dark.

Linda Gray Sexton finally arrives whole--In a world for her that was once motherless--

Now, after years of searching, she has found the mother within, and Anne Sexton herself,with all her imperfections, lives within that person too.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
captivating, enthralling 10 Dec. 2004
By Belinda - Published on
Format: Paperback
I actually read this book while it was in production -- I was on the proofreading team for the publisher's typesetter -- and the entire team was enthralled by this book. Work is work, and usually we would would deal with the task at hand, but on breaks and over lunch, many of us working on this book would have mini-sessions about the author, her mother, the context of the relationship. We all felt very personally attached and protective of this book because we were working with the manuscript, which had handwritten notes between the author and her editor in the margins. It wasn't simply a narrative, we were keenly aware of the humanity behind the words. However, that awareness was truly heightened by the sensitive and thoughtful writing. Of course, my reading experience is unique to my situation, but I urge all readers to give this book some time. It's worth the investment.
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