Telling A Mother's Story After Her Death: 'If You Knew Suzy'

Katherine Rosman , a Wall Street Journal reporter, didn’t know her mother well; after her death, she traveled the country to interview people who knew her better than her own daughter.

The result is a new memoir, “If You Knew Suzy”.

Elle calls it “bittersweet, compelling and at times hilarious” and People, this week, raved as well.

I’m curious about a book that investigates a mother’s life, as someone who doesn’t know her Mom well either. I haven’t lived with mine since I was 14 and she is intensely private. The closest I’ve ever come to plumbing the depths of her mind or memories was still only a visual of them, when I saw the images of her brain, preyed upon by a large tumor for many years without any of us knowing it, before her (successful) neurosurgery, which I wrote about. She’s led an interesting life, traveled the world alone, lived in Peru, England, New Mexico, but keeps much of her earliest life to herself.

Do you know your Mom well? Did you learn anything about her after her death that surprised you?

Do you talk to your kids about your own childhood and adolescence?

4 thoughts on “Telling A Mother's Story After Her Death: 'If You Knew Suzy'

  1. dalina

    I like to think my mom and I are pretty close, but I’ve recently started to wonder about how much I really know about her. The two of us took a three-day road trip (a rare treat, considering I have two sisters and my dad is always up for an adventure) and though we had so much time to talk, I still feel like there is so much to learn about this woman.
    She only says two words when I’m having a bad day, but sometimes I think her actions have helped me get through some tough times. I just dust myself off, ready myself for the next hurdle and follow her advice: “chin up.”

  2. Caitlin Kelly

    Your mom sounds a little like mine. My mom has never been a wildly emotional person but she’s survived five kinds of cancer and she, too, has always counseled me to hold my fire and stay calm. Her expression – “What should I do? Jump out of my skin?”

    I think having a fairly cool-headed Mom is a great role model as it teaches women to think (calmly) for themselves and gain the confidence they/we can figure most things out.

  3. My mother recently did the same thing when her father died. She asked his friends and colleagues about him, and what she found out made for an amazing story. I would like to think, as the first commenter said, that I know my mom pretty well, but there’s a great deal I feel that I’m missing about her early life. I don’t know what she was like as a kid, or what she did in highschool, or other things of that nature. I suppose I could always ask her, but I get the feeling that the stories would be much funnier coming from her brothers! She and I do have a great relationship though, one that has gotten stronger as I have gotten older and become a mother myself. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    Suzanna, do you know about StoryCorps? It’s a brilliant idea from David Isay of NPR where regular folks go into a recording booth and do an interview that is recorded for posterity with whomever they choose. Some of the ones I’ve heard are so moving.

    I think it’s odd and sad that we spend our days listening so intently to everyone BUT our own older relatives. Maybe it’s how to start those conversations that’s awkward?

    One of my best memories, ever, was when my mom came to visit me here and we went to the town nearby where she lived for a while as a little girl; I’d always seen a photo of her on a horse by a stable. We visited a local realtor, who pulled out maps of the town in that era — and within minutes we found the house (and stable.)

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