Book Reviews

Loss Adjustment by Linda Collins – Book Review

Nicole Melanson ~

Writer Linda Collins Book Cover - Loss Adjustment

Loss Adjustment is an unflinching look at the devastation wrought on a couple after their only child dies by suicide. Linda Collins wrote this memoir to honour her daughter Victoria, who took her own life at the age of seventeen while the family was living in Singapore.

Victoria’s passing plunges Linda and her husband into an endless cycle of investigation, frustration, and despair as they attempt to understand what compelled their daughter to suicide. Loss Adjustment oscillates between “Why?” and “What if?” with dogged determination consistent with Linda’s background as a journalist. Committed to leaving no stone unturned in her search for answers, Linda probes classmates, teachers, friends, neighbours, and anyone else that might have interacted with her daughter in the months leading up to her death.

It is this practicality and pragmatism that give Loss Adjustment its accessibility, which is the difference between memoir as mere therapy for the writer and as an experience that truly engages the reader. Make no mistake, Linda’s writing packs a gut punch in terms of raw, unfiltered emotion, but beyond her crushing grief, she provokes important discussion about how we identify and support vulnerable individuals amongst us.

As a New Zealander in Singapore, Linda offers a unique perspective on both cultural classicism and academic expectations, as well as querying how that kind of external pressure might contribute to mental illness in those who are susceptible. On the other side of the coin, she shares what it’s like to mourn in a culture where death and its associated rituals are revered, rather than hushed and hurried.

I was surprised—pleasantly—by the amount of anger in Loss Adjustment. Most explorations of grief capture the shock and nausea, the unbridled crying and unexpected weeping, the emptiness and fatigue…but not the pure rage associated with having someone you love torn mercilessly from your life. Linda is liberal with both blame and guilt, refusing to accept that her daughter’s pain arose in a vacuum. She raises uncomfortable questions about complicity and accountability, irrespective of personal issues.

Loss Adjustment is, above all else, a meditation on love, asking just how well we can ever know another person. I felt uncomfortable reading the entries included from Victoria’s diary, simply because diaries are, to my mind, messy, intrinsically private things, but I appreciate why Linda wanted to share them. Victoria McLeod was a talented, lucid writer, and her voice both grounds and illuminates her mother’s ruminations, moving this story away from objectification towards the subject herself.

Linda artfully captures the unconditional, almost-obsessive love a parent feels towards their own child, showing her willingness to embrace not only every aspect of her daughter’s life, but of her death as well. There are beautifully rendered moments where Linda visits the scene of Victoria’s suicide trying to understand her final thoughts and feelings, and another where she finds the pendant her daughter was wearing at the time of her death. The poignancy of these events in Loss Adjustment is best summed up when Linda writes, “I know I want to keep whatever I can of whatever is left, even if just a drop of her blood on a metal moon.”

Loss Adjustment is available for purchase from Ethos Books here.

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