from author’s website


Berkeley and Oxford-educated anthropologist Susannah Kennedy was born in India before returning to the US. As an adult, Kennedy traveled extensively on her own, first in Italy, and then through the Middle East and India, settling for two years in Egypt before moving as a reporter to Dallas, Texas. At Oxford University, she specialized in Arab culture and politics, receiving her DPhil in social anthropology. She and her German husband raised three children in a thatched roof farmhouse in the German countryside. They now live in the Bay Area.


A gripping memoir that shows what freedom looks like when we choose to examine the uncomfortable past

Jane is to the world a charismatic personality – opinionated, an inner-city teacher and public activist, a lover of Italy, proud and successful – who thrives on a carefully crafted life narrative. Susannah, her beautiful only daughter and her intended protégé, senses the stricter, darker truth, and fights to resist the control imposed on her by her mother’s narcissistic tale, especially as Susannah becomes a mother herself.

But then Jane at 75, healthy and fit, chooses suicide, leaving her daughter with grief and the unwelcome gift of 45 years of hidden diaries. Daring to “read” Jane after her death is like unlatching Pandora’s Box. For a year, Susannah twists and turns to the truths she uncovers, comparing what she remembers with what her mother put down in words. As Susannah Kennedy re-lives her life through her mother’s eyes, she grapples with the ties between mothers and daughters and the choices parents make.


“With luminous writing, Susannah taps into that which is both universal to the mother-daughter bond and also that which is sublimely unique to this very personal and beautifully written story about love, betrayal, domestic violence, and the ultimate act of power and control- taking one’s own life and leaving loved ones behind to pick up the emotional wreckage. … Breathtakingly beautiful in its execution and reads like a gripping mystery.” -Lissa Rankin, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine and Sacred Medicine

“From the opening page, Reading Jane summoned my attention and held me spellbound to the end. With graceful prose and an unflinching gaze, Susannah Kennedy led me into a provocative meditation on what it means to reckon with the stories bequeathed to us—those written down, lived, weaponized, hidden, rewritten—and the lies and truth they animate. … ‘A Daughter’s Memoir,’ the subtitle of this book, matters. Although the mother in this story attempts to control the narrative and the spotlight, the daughter is the one with a profound gift for the reader: the chance to witness the transformation of a child raised to deny so much of herself into an adult who allows and embraces the fullness of everyone. And at the heart of that gift, the permission for the reader to do the same.” -Jen Violi, Author of Putting Makeup on Dead People

Wow! was my first reaction on finishing Susannah Kennedy’s breathtaking memoir, Reading Jane. For days I was deeply immersed in Kennedy’s courageous exploration of her relationship with her mother, as she bravely examines her own psyche and comes to better understand herself, her mother, and their complex effects on one another. Brava to Susannah Kennedy for allowing us to accompany her on this fascinating journey.” —Susan Buckley, author of Eating with Peter

“Some of the most honest, heartfelt, beautiful CNF I have ever read, both as an editor and as a reader.” —Liza Olson, editor of (mac)ro(mic)

“The best book I’ve read in years. The alternating spirals of love and distancing between an adult daughter who sought warmth, and a mother who just couldn’t deliver it. Elegant and beautifully written.” — David Bodanis, best-selling author of The Art of Fairness: The Power of Decency in a World Turned Mean

Reading Jane is a beautifully told story of a mercurial, larger-than-life mother whose choice to end her own life while still in her prime sets her daughter on a quest to understand her mother’s inner world by reading her diaries. A fascinating tale of mother-daughter love shot through with longing, enmeshment and disappointment. I found myself rooting for the author to free herself from her mother’s grip and rejoiced when she did. By turns intriguing and repellent, the glamorous, eccentric Jane kept me reading late into the night and stayed with me long after I closed the book. Reading Jane is a triumph both as a literary memoir and as a contribution to the ongoing right-to-die debate in this country.” —Zoe FitzGerald Carter, author of Imperfect Endings

Reading Jane is a brilliant memoir. It opens the door for each of us to truly consider what our family life (or lack of it) has meant to whom we have become. Kennedy reads her mother’s journals after her mother’s intentional end of life. What she learns and how it informs her own developmental history is presented in vivid, poignant, reflective terms. Her use of metaphor and shifts in time and space create a relational portrait of transgenerational and extended family experience that is both heartbreaking and invigorating. It is a gift to clinicians and non-clinicians alike.” — Dr. Harriet Wolfe, M.D., President, International Psychoanalytical Association

Reading Jane is an extraordinary memoir of family secrets, love, loss, and a daughter’s quest to understand how her mother’s twisted history and death by suicide shaped her own life. Susannah Kennedy, raised the only child of a single mother in the kaleidoscopic days of the late 20th and early 21st century, writes with clear-eyed, sometimes brutal honesty. Her experience of other cultures – summers in Italy, life on multiple continents – informs and enriches the tale. Kennedy uncovers, in this deeply personal story, more than a few universal truths. A gifted first-time author, she leaves us wanting more.” —Fran Moreland Johns, board member End of Life Choices California, author of Marshallville Stories, Dying Unafraid and Perilous Times: An inside look at abortion before – and after – Roe v Wade

“When her mother Jane, a healthy 75-year-old, shockingly decides to take her own life, Susannah Kennedy is left reeling with innumerable questions. There are also 45 years worth of diaries that contain some answers and ultimately reveal some surprising secrets. This elegantly written memoir by Kennedy, a former newspaper reporter-turned-anthropologist, opens a window into the complicated relationships that can exist between mothers and daughters, especially when the mother is a narcissistic single parent.” -Anita Snow, Associated Press Book Review


Author visits with Susannah Kennedy are available via