By Her Own Hand: Memoirs of a Suicide's Daughter
A chronicle of emotional child abuse, Hammer's slim autobiography is a courageous
attempt at tracing the root causes of her mother's and her own chronic depression.
In the spring of 1950, while the author and her three older brothers slept and their
overbearingly misogynistic father was out of town, her mother ``set up the ironing
board in front of the open oven, turned on the gas, lay down on the ironing board,
and waited for the gas to do its work.'' Only nine years old at the time of the
suicide, Hammer ( Passionate Attachments ) has spent a lifetime battling her own
urges to follow in her mother's footsteps, and this work is clearly an exercise in
survivor therapy. Through somewhat detached and at times poetically pretentious prose,
Hammer paints a tragic picture of her family's pathological--and seemingly generational--need
for control and the heart-wrenching consequences.