Friday, January 22, 2010

Review & GIVEAWAY: The Postpartum Blues

If you read the back cover blurb of Deborah Copaken Kogan's Between Here and April, you get the impression you're about to embark on a mystery thriller. That's somewhat of a deception. In reality, Kogan uses a brief murder mystery to address much larger issues.

In Between Here and April, Elizabeth Burns is a journalist and married mom of two daughters. She's struggling with the demands and desires of both career and family, and she feels like she's sinking. When a memory from her childhood suddenly surfaces, Elizabeth becomes determined to discover the truth behind the disappearance of her first grade best friend, April Cassidy. The search doesn't take very long; after all, when a mother kills herself and her two daughters, the newspapers are sure to pick up the story. April's research gave her the WHAT, WHEN, and HOW, but she's looking for one more thing: the WHY? How could a parent do such an unthinkable thing?

All of this happens within the first third (or even quarter) of the book, and the rest of the pages are dedicated to Elizabeth's quest for answers—interviewing neighbors, friends, and family of April's mother, Adele. Kogan delves into the issue of postpartum depression head-on. Elizabeth tries to understand the situation as it was in the early-1970s, in a society before postpartum depression was recognized as a legitimate and treatable condition and when Vallium was the go-to cure for women, even if it didn't work.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it got a little preachy to me. I was looking forward to the mystery thriller the marketing blurb seemed to promise and the beginning started off strong. However, we soon found the main character being sucked down the same path as the woman she was investigating. It was hard to feel much sympathy for her; I mean, she is studying the very emotions she is feeling—can't she see what it is and get help rather than just succumb to it? Also, I don't have kids, so I couldn't relate on a very basic level. 

On the other hand, I understand how out of control a condition like this can make you feel—like there is someone else taking over your brain, you feel like a different person, and you just can't seem to get out of the funk. This is a symptom of any kind of mental disorder—panic, anxiety, depression—so many, many people could relate. In which case, the story becomes a kind of champion against the feelings of despair as we see Elizabeth deal with her own personal demons. This would be a GREAT selection for a book club, as it has a LOT to discuss.

Thanks to Algonquin, I have ONE copy to share with our readers! This contest is open internationally. For one entry each:
  1. Comment on this post with your email address and answer this question (thanks to the book's discussion guide!): Are some things better left repressed or should they always be brought to the surface?
  2. Tweet about this giveaway. (Win a copy of BETWEEN HERE AND APRIL from @fiveborobooks!
Deadline is Friday, February 5th at 11:59PM EST. The winner will be announced the following day. Good luck!

Review copies provided by the publisher.


Linda Kish said...

I think some things are better left in the past and not knowing why they occurred but in today's world we seem to want to know the reasons behind everything that happens.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Salvatore said...

Good questions asked. Are there stories that may not need to be told? I like that query. It's a difficult one to answer...

Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict said...

I think they should always be surfaced, otherwise family members are still haunted by the Why? I think either way, you'd be bothered.

I'd love to be entered.

Booksnyc said...

I think things should be brought to the surface and at least examined. Otherwise, the repressed feelings have negative consequences.

thanks for entering me!

leenbeen2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Laura said...

I think it depends on the situation. I'm a keeper of secrets, yet nosy, so I'd rather other people bring things to the surface while I keep my thoughts hidden.

Jackie said...

This book sounds Interesting.
My sister suffers from depression so It Is a subject very close to me.
She also expressed memories from child hood that were very painful to hear, yet I am glad everything Is In the open, as It helps the family to understand her condition better.
I do believe that It Is healthier to express your feelings, than to keep things locked away.

Nina B said...

I would agree that all things are better surfaced than not. Healthier relationships are formed through honesty, however brutal. Unsaid truths will find their way out at some point, and it's usually better if it's voluntarily.

Sounds like a good read, I'd like to be entered.