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Marie Rimer
Back From Suicide: Before and After the Essential Patrick

Adult; Memoir; (Publish)

Patrick Wood was a valedictorian, an AP Scholar, and a National Merit Scholarship winner with perfect SAT scores. He graduated with honors from Stanford University and was a top programming intern for Siemens. He was popular in Berlin’s gay scene when rejection from a boyfriend plunged him into despair. He left his job without notice and wandered the streets of Berlin in a daze. He told his mother suicide would be easy. She had no idea he meant it. Six weeks later, he plugged every opening in a small room in his Berlin apartment and lit three pans of charcoal. A lifetime of academic success and job offers at BMW and Siemens disappeared. Patrick was twenty-three years old. 

Back From Suicide is a highly-reviewed memoir of the least likely person to kill himself. It is a decade-long search for answers that explores depression and the difficulty of coming out. Patrick’s mother, Lisette Rimer, turns tragedy into understanding how suicide could be easy, how brilliance could turn into ashes from charcoal. She traces Patrick’s journey through the misery of depression and the deception of permanent relief. She learns what she should have done, what she should have said, what parents need to know, and, in spite of mistakes, how to emerge Back From Suicide

Patrick would teach me something I never thought possible. He would teach me there was something worse than death. It was the fear of not dying. It was called depression. 


Lisette Rimer, Patrick’s mother

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10


Plot/idea: Rimer details the aftermath of her son’s death by suicide in this raw, powerful memoir. As she recalls Patrick’s struggles to find meaning and cope with his depression, his story unfolds in somber tones of heartbreak, depression, and love against the backdrop of a mother’s anguish and guilt. 

Prose: The prose is concise and expressive, steeped in Rimer’s heartrending pain at the loss of her son. She recounts the events as they happened, allowing readers to view her grief journey organically; that style lends realism and intensity to the memoir.

Originality: Rimer’s willingness to share her innermost emotions and experiences after her son’s death give the writing authenticity. Her quest to understand why Patrick died, alongside her own crushing regret at not knowing the depth of his pain, will immediately transfix readers. 

Character/Execution: As Rimer shares her search for answers in the wake of her son’s death by suicide, she includes photographs and mementos from Patrick’s life that animate the memoir, making the family’s pain—and transformation—palpable throughout.

Date Submitted: January 30, 2024

Rimer’s deeply pained and beautifully written exploration of her son’s death from suicide, is at once a celebration of a life, a reckoning with a death, and an impassioned inquiry in how and why the inconceivable could happen—and what more can be done to prevent it in other cases. Before his death in Berlin in 2006 at the age of 23, Patrick Wood had been a young man of extraordinary promise and charisma. He earned the highest of academic accolades, had developed into a dazzling pianist and programmer, and seemed to thrive, after coming out as gay, among new friends in Berlin, where he served an internship with the engineering company Siemens. Despite an earlier hospitalization as a student at Stanford for depression and suicidal ideation, the news that he had ended his life came as a total shock. “Why?” Rimer asks.

Rimer, an English teacher, writes with grace and precision of complex feelings, as she recounts her and her family experience of the aftermath, including their efforts to understand Patrick’s, such as tours of his Berlin, tearful meetings with friends, and, later, the jolting revelations of reading his medical records. Rimer discovers that Patrick’s depression had been much more debilitating than she had known, and she makes an impassioned call for awareness of how parents and schools are ill-equipped to “detect the severity of the disease and, therefore, the likelihood of a completed suicide.”

“We rationalize depression and suicide when they are not rational,” she writes. “We look for logic instead of anatomical disease. We settle for thirteen excuses why. We need to insist on more.” That spirit of bold truth telling is matched throughout by Rimer’s frank account of holding herself to blame despite understanding that she’s not and her agonized search for answers in literature, family history, and science. It’s also matched, with rare power, by love for Patrick. The book pulses with moving testimonials, in memorial encomiums, song lyrics, conversation, and his twin sister’s tender, sparkling foreword. It’s above all an act of love.

Takeaway: A mother’s moving efforts to understand a son’s death by suicide.

Comparable Titles: Kay Redfield Jamison’s Night Falls Fast, Susan Auerbach’s I’ll Write Your Name on Every Beach.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Nancy Cobb, In Lieu of Flowers: A Conversation for the Living

Back From Suicide is a must-read for everyone, at this moment of our sad history, when teenage suicide is on the rise. I did not put it down, except to eat and sleep. It is a tour de force—pitch perfect (Wagnerian though it often is). It is a mother’s journey to trace the arc, the soul, and the burn-out of this shooting star. Rimer has brought his greatness to life, over and over again. She is a sleuth, a truth-teller, and a superb writer. Patrick shines on, even in the depths of his family’s and his mother’s grief.