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After Daniel: A Suicide Survivor’s Tale

by Moira Farr

Black holes are the only celestial bodies that succumb to their own gravity. Even light can’t escape. Toronto-based writer Daniel Jones, like many others who commit suicide, succumbed to his own inescapable void.

After Daniel: A Suicide Survivor’s Tale is journalist Moira Farr’s chronicle of working through her grief after she found her partner, Jones, dead on Valentine’s Day in 1994. He had taken his own life.

Farr’s recovery took her to a suicidology conference in Memphis, into a sweat lodge, and onto the suicide pages of the Internet. She trained and volunteered as a grief counsellor. She interviewed inmates who run a suicide prevention program at the Drumheller Institution in Alberta.

Along the way, the reader is confided in and reported to. After Daniel is a well-written, heartfelt, and at times a wrenching read. The opening and closing chapters are unflinchingly personal. One suspects that it must hurt to write so truthfully because it is deeply moving to read Farr’s account of what happened, even when her self-deprecating humour softens the blows.

The middle chapters cover suicide as a social phenomenon. Farr writes about famous suicides (Kurt Cobain), book and movie depictions of suicide (from Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther to Bruce McDonald’s Hard Core Logo), news items (the death of Martin Kruze, who was abused as a youngster), and various programs and centres (like the Suicide Information and Education Centre in Calgary).

There is a tendency for those left behind to search for an answer. But as Farr’s book shows, suicide is a complex thing. There is no one single cause or culprit. Every day, worldwide, about 2,000 people kill themselves. This book is a light for those who don’t.