Dec 132012

November of the Soul: The Enigma of Suicide
November of the Soul: The Enigma of Suicide by George Howe Colt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this ebook as background reading for writing my latest novel during National Novel Writing Month. I’d hunted around for a comprehensive, well-written book on suicide, and this was it according to a few sources. It’s rather large, which fortunately one has no sense of with an ebook. No intimidation factor! Yet it’s an easy read for such a fact-filled ebook. I didn’t read the whole of it because there were certain sections that were not relevant to my novel. But I assume that if they were as well-researched and as clearly written as the rest, then they were excellent.

He covers a lot of historical ground — it’s fascinating and eye-opening and brings home the point that suicide has been with us for millennia. We modern people are not special in that way. He also addresses some of the big questions, like if the media report on suicide, will copycats flourish? Or why do people suicide? He notes that the people most likely to suicide are in the age range of my protagonist (I had guessed well) and that the Inuit in Canada’s far north have the highest suicide rates in the world.

I liked his use of detailed true examples for each section, of how he profiled people who suicided or, later on in the book, a person who was left behind by suicide. He also profiled suicide survivors. He goes into meticulous details about the events leading up to their death (or surviving the death of a spouse) and also what happened afterwards, including how the community and media reacted. Yet it’s not boring at all. It’s like reading a story, but one that is very real. The first true example I read, I did so on the subway. Not a good idea as it affected me greatly, that’s how powerful Colt’s storytelling ability is.

If you’re at all interested in suicide, want to know more about this terrible scourge, or understand it if you know someone who has suicided, then I highly recommend this book.

(Yes, I know, I’ve turned suicide into a verb. But “commit suicide” is a phrase that people in this area want to get away from, and I think instead of using cumbersome phrases, turning suicide into a verb, which is a natural kind of change in the language, is better.)

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