Literary Minds Online Book Club: ‘Breaking the Silence’

Welcome to the third week of aNewsCafe.com’s Literary Minds Online Book Club, a partnership with Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency, in honor of Mental Health Month.

I hope you visited our first week’s meeting in my virtual living room, where we discussed “Divided Minds – Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia,” by Pamela Spiro Wagner and Carolyn S. Spiro, M.D., and the second week, when we featured “Grand Central Winter,” by Lee Stringer.

This week’s featured selection is “Breaking the Silence – Overcoming a Family History of Alcoholism and Suicide,” by Mariette Hartley (& Anne Commire).

Just a reminder that we realize it’s ambitious to cover four books in one month, but if anyone could do it, I trust aNewsCafe.com readers to rise to the challenge.

Even so, please keep in mind that we welcome comments about the topics (for this book it’s alcoholism and suicide), even if you’ve not read the books. Remember that this project is more about an opportunity for a sincere community discussion about mental health, and less about each book. The books are just the springboard to a conversation. Also, just because we’ve moved on to another book, doesn’t mean we’ve closed the cover on the previous books. We can continue talking about them for as long as you leave comments.

Next Monday we’ll conclude the book club with our final book, “The Caveman’s Valentine,” by George Dawes Green.  

But until then, let’s jump into this week’s book, “Breaking the Silence.”

I’ll go first.

Well. You know how in last week’s book, “Grand Central Winter,” I said my favorite parts were when Lee Stringer talked about his life on the streets? I have a similar observation about “Breaking the Silence.” The parts that touched me most were when Hartley spoke of her family traumas, whether about her maternal grandfather, John Broadus Watson, the founder of “behaviorism” – or about her father’s alcoholism, depression and eventual suicide, or her mother’s myriad suicide attempts, or Hartley’s own brushes with less serious mental health issues.

True, this book touched lightly on those subjects (or  how would I have known to mention them?) but mostly it covered details about Hartley’s life as an actress. (She’s probably best know for Polaroid commercials with James Garner, but she also appeared in many television shows and movies. You may recall her brief stint as host of  the CBS show “The Morning Program.”)

I must admit, though, I was pretty entertained by the stories about her courtship and marriage to her French husband, and the birth of their children.

In this book, Hartley liberally drops the names of many famous people she worked with, which I suppose could be expected when someone in show business writes any book. 

But let’s stick to the mental health angle, shall we?

Toward the end of the book Hartley made a comment about suicide that rung true in a way I’d never heard described:

“A lot of people, especially in their teenage years, have contemplations of ‘wouldn’t it be nice if this were all over.’ As I watched my father being wheeled out, part of me said, ‘My God, this works. Suicide really works. Don’t mess around with it anymore.’ But another part of me wanted to die with him.” 

She went on to write about the stigma of suicide for those left behind, and how common it is for families to keep  their loved one’s suicide a secret.

I have some thoughts on this topic myself, which I’ll share. But first I’d like to give you a chance to comment with your feedback.


Click here for the first week’s discussion of “Divided Minds, Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia.”

Click here for the second week’s discussion of “Grand Central Winter,” by Lee Stringer.

Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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