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Her Last Death: A Memoir

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  2,855 ratings  ·  511 reviews
Her Last Death begins as the phone rings early one morning in the Montana house where Susanna Sonnenberg lives with her husband and two young sons. Her aunt is calling to tell Susanna her mother is in a coma after a car accident. She might not live. Any daughter would rush the thousands of miles to her mother's bedside. But Susanna cannot bring herself to go. Her courageou ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Scribner
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Betsy
So you think you had a difficult mother? This memorist's mom - an intoxicating and intoxicated coke-addicted, sex-obsessed, narcissistic, party girl(and ridiculously irresponsible parent who hits on her daughter's boyfriends, among other things) - takes the cake. But midway through the book - which not only details mom's sexual excesses but the writer's - I grew increasingly irritated. Just why did she write this peep show of a memoir and why was I reading it? Judging from a favorable NYT review ...more
Annie
I found this memoir to be very self-indulgent. I actually didn’t believe the majority of the “stories” that the author relayed about her life. I found myself rolling my eyes a lot while reading. The author complained (a LOT) about how her mother lied to her throughout her life. She complained about how her mother’s mania caused her to be choppy and hard to follow in conversations. I think both criticisms could be applied to the author herself.

The author had quite the high opinion of herself;
...more
Caris
As someone less than thrilled with his childhood upbringing, I thought I would enjoy this. Every once in a while, I like a bit of literary commiseration- these memoirs that tell me other people had fucked up parents, too. Books like these allow me to explore the past through the eyes of another, often revealing insights into my own life that I'd never come to on my own.

But this book, until its final pages, doesn't do that. This is a memoir of sexual intercourse. It starts with the author's mothe
...more
Chrissy
I should have put this down after the first few pages. I felt an absolute kick to the gut that can only be explained by deep understanding. Ms Sonnenberg could have been writing about my life, my feelings and my mother.

My mother, while not a drug addict or as overtly promiscious, rivals Daphne in her inabilty to share. I was tickled by the bad reviews of this story - and I can only guess that those who grew up in an environment where safety and love are related have trouble comprehending a home
...more
Robert
In HER LAST DEATH, Susanna Sonnenberg achieves what I believe the very best memoirs can accomplish. She paints a vivid, living picture, not just of a life but of her relationship with her manic but unbalanced mother, and she does so with prejudice and personal perspective. Memoir is not autobiography; at its very best, the genre tells us not the facts and objective observation of the events. Memoir takes us into the heart of the author's experience, and it is its very subjectivity that gives it ...more
Badly Drawn Girl


I read several different books at the same time, alternating back and forth through the day and the week depending on my mood. I picked up Her Last Death and didn't pick up another book (even ones I had been happily reading the day before) until I finished it. I've read a lot of memoirs and sometimes I feel like it's all been done (and written) before... but not this time. This is a jaw dropping experience, a memoir that is so far out there it feels like fiction but so emotionally right on that
...more
Anastacia
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lynne
Susanna decides to not go to her mother's bedside after she's been in a nearly-fatal accident. The bulk of recovery work falls to her sister, who makes the trek to South America to care for their illing mother. Susanna looks like the bad daughter.

But when you've grown up with a cocaine-using, pill-popping, self-absorbed pathological liar for a mother, what can you expect?

Susanna tells the story of the complex, twisted relationship she has with her mother, ranging from moments of complete disgust
...more
Erin
I was really torn between a 1 and a 2 on this book - the 2 rating ultimately won out only b/c I had such a viscerally negative reaction to it that I thought that was worth something! I just didn't like any of the "characters" - the author, the mother, the sister, and even the husband. I was so tired of hearing from the author's perspective how terrible the mother was (and if this book is true, she did some horrible things) but yet the author spent her whole life wrapped up in her mother's world ...more
Rebecca
Feb 23, 2008 Rebecca rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
I probably should have put this book down & not read the whole thing since it was just a memoir about the author and her relationship with her drug addicted, sex addicted, lying mom, which in turn made her become a nympho from a young age. So just sex & drugs in this one. This author married a (jack) mormon & had a couple of kids (after an abortion that this (jack) mormon approved of.) I think if I were her in laws I'd be embarrassed to read this about my daughter in law and all she ...more
Mammabird
It is interesting to see what others have said about this memoir. For those that did not like it I believe it has a lot to do with not being connected to the reader. Having been born in the sixties with a dad who got addicted to coke I read some of this with rapt interest and would like to sit down with the writer over a bottle of wine and share some of our odd memories and ways we have struggled to find normalcy in this world that does not believe or comprehend our experiences,

Sonnenberg's voic
...more
Melissa Lee-tammeus
I found this book beautifully haunting. I loved the stilted way she wrote - short choppy sentences along with wonderfully descriptive ones. It was intriguing in her writing style. The story is a memoir of a dysfuntional relationship between a girl and her mother, who though it is never stated, clearly seemed to be manic depressive, an obsessive liar, an addict, physically and psychologically abusive, and an alcoholic. The author grew up way too fast in such an environment and as you watch her st ...more
Kathy Hiester
I picked up Susanna Sonnenberg’s memoir Her Last Death in the bargain bin at Border’s and it was one of my better finds among the myriad of books.
The book opens with a phone call in which that Sonnenberg learns that her mother, who lives in Barbados, has been in a horrible car accident, and there is a good chance she is going to die. The story is about her decision to not go to her mother and why. There is too much history, too many lies, too many faked illnesses and almost deception about dying
...more
Natalie
I had high expectations for this book. I love me some true narratives from people who've been born into a crazy famous life. I love the drama, the struggle, the shock value of the insane things they deem mundane.
I was expecting a Running With Scissors memoir, equip with drugs and sex and crazy mothers and mental break downs.

And true, the book did seem to be going down that path for the first third of it. But then, somewhere along the way, the author lost sight of the interesting and it became a
...more
Alex Cwik
Her Last Death is the story of Susanna Sonnenberg's life summed up in 273 pages. Susanna grows up in a world full of money, drugs, and sex; all influenced by her mother.She talks about the struggles and horrific events, but most importantly how she dealt with them. I gave it four stars because I could never put this book down. It is just amazing how much she went through at such a young age. The way she wrote it, the timeline moved pretty quickly and at times it was confusing. Sonnenberg writes, ...more
Sarah
I love those books that you haven't been reading about or pining after and then they usually fall under your expectations or maybe meet them but then there's no surprise because it's what you expected. Then there are the books that you stumbled on without any urging from other reviewers or barnes and noble lists or goodreads suggestions etc etc etc.
The books that jump out at you at the library or maybe you read something about a new book but the review mentions an old book and that's the one yo
...more
Holly Lee (Bellas Novella)
This book was an emotional rollercoaster. I read the book very slowly because i had to take time to process what I had read. The author Susanna Sonnenberg has held nothing back in her memoir. It was difficult to read at times because it was such a personal experience, and most of the time it was quite depressing.

Its hard to call a book like this a good book, or to even say that I enjoyed it. I would recommend it though, to anyone who can appreciate a candid life story.

I always feel like a lot ca
...more
Maria Headley
Ranks up there with the best writing about the kind of parents who are impossibly ill-suited-to-be-parents. This definitely stands with The Liar's Club, The Glass Castle, This Boy's Life, and any other book in that vein. I enjoyed all of those, tremendously, and I enjoyed this just as much. Susanna Sonnenberg is blistering on all levels - toward herself, toward the world she grows up in and learns to live in, toward her completely off the rails mother. Blistering in a good way, I clarify. She's ...more
Michele
Mummy Dearest
Reading this book, the story of Susanna's upbringing and early years of marriage and motherhood, was like reading someone's diary. Her Last Death is the intimate purging of an extraordinary life with Mummy--perhaps one of the most unfit and reckless characters ever to raise children. What's remarkable is that Susanna not only lived to tell the tale, but also ultimately seems to have turned out to be quite "normal." She has certainly realized her potential as an educated and talented
...more
Keleigh
Feb 25, 2010 Keleigh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Keleigh by: Clif
This is a compulsively readable memoir. The main focus is the writer's relationship with her glamorous, narcissistic, sex-and-drug-addicted mother, and how this bond (rife with violence, intensity and betrayal) reverberated over the course of the author's life and relationships. The writing is straightforward and not too frilly; the story is fascinating and at times shocking, with a raw-edged honesty that resonated with me. Most affecting for me was Sonnenberg's description of her use of sexuali ...more
Lori
Children who were raised in poverty, in abuse, in neglect, in terror but made it out can often be lumped into large groups:

-- They hide their past from themselves and from others. They say it has no bearing on who they are now.

-- They broadcast their past, one-upping the upbringings of those around them.

-- They minimize their childhood, saying their life was no different from others. They did what they did to get by.

Most pick and choose from the above scenarios, depending on audience and timing
...more
Patricia Murphy
This is of that vein of memoir that by the end of it I feel ashamed that I read it.

I really do try to read as many BatShit Crazy Mother stories as possible, since I'm writing one of my own. So for that reason I put in the 5 hours. I did the research. But how I wish I had those 5 hours back.

The most egregious thing about this memoir is its propensity to completely shift scene and setting from paragraph to paragraph, as if the speaker can't wait to enumerate more pieces of evidence that the moth
...more
Shere
I can understand how some people may not relate to the author and what she went through with her eccentric mom. However, speaking as someone who had a "Crazy" mom, I could relate wholeheartedly to most of her situations and I was able to put my own experiences within the context of the book. Since my mom passed away from alcohol abuse three years ago, I have tried to reconcile my feelings of both her life and death, how much I loved her and could hate her at times and I have often felt alone in ...more
Vicki
This book isn't for the faint hearted. You've heard the saying "that not everyone should become parents" and that is certainly the case for Susanna's mother. It is a wonder that Susanna and her sister turned out as well as they did. Maybe Susanna's outlet to write helped her cope with her crazy mother. I found Susanna to be a very eloquent writer. As I read her book, I often thought to myself what it would be like to have Susanna's talent to describe situations and memories with such detail that ...more
Iris Robinson
I really, really liked this book. Shocking. It shows how destructive lying is...everyone lies sometimes, but her mother...wow. One of my ex-roommates is a pathological liar, and she reminds me a LOT of the author's mother...always lying and making up ridiculous stories to try to impress anyone and everyone. This behavior, as I know from experience, destroys and prevents relationships. I can relate to how the author can't bear to see her mother after the life she has had. I'm glad that she has, h ...more
Betty
Aug 31, 2008 Betty rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young women curious about mother daughter relationships
this book was an easy read about a mother written by an author. mom was addicted to drugs and attention. a rather unpleasant combination. the writer talks about the relationship with her mother being an uneasy cocktail of mother-daughter and girlfriends chatter an revelations. the boundaries blurred by cocaine and over eager young men. lies become truths and visa versa more readily than should be expected.
I enjoyed this book. the characters were pretty well defined and each chapter was lively a
...more
Regan Wann
I picked this book up on a super-clearance at Half Price Books - mainly because it's a memoir, which I often like, and it's about a mother/daughter relationship, which I'm having some immediate experience with myself right now.

So. Yeah.

I stuck it out to the end of the book. Sonnenberg's writing style is highly readable. However. I found myself unable to fully immerse in her story. Several times I even found myself doubting her.

I don't know how to explain what I mean by that. I'm not sure I doubt
...more
Amanda
This is a very difficult book to review. On one hand I loved the writing style. On the other hand I'm not a huge fan of the way it was written or the choices of the author. The book was lackluster but intriguing at the same time. There wasn't as much detail as I would've liked. It seemed that I was reading the book on fast forward, catching bits and pieces, but confused about how it all connected. I just don't see how 30+ years of life can fit into 274 pages.

Life is beautiful, heartbreaking &am
...more
Khalsa Joslin
This was a fast read. I kept reading to find out what horrible thing Sonnenberg's mother would do next. The strange thing about this book how enmeshed their relationship was. At times you feel for the mother, even after some awful behavior. It is sad that even children of abusive, and crazy parents still want to love them. I suppose that was only mother she knew. It is amazing that she was able to create a sane life for herself. Also, to see what family she had to sacrifice in order to do that.
Sara Gootblatt
You think you had a dysfunctional family? Meet Susan Sonnenberg whose mother was a classic narcissist. It's a kick to read about crazy moms, but Sonnenberg gets a little bogged down in the middle with her own unhinged life. I couldn't wait until her mother came back into the story. Well written. Sonnenberg's attention to detail is a gift, although sometimes there's TMI.
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Susanna 2 5 Jun 19, 2014 03:44AM  
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