Robert and Mary Rowe’s second child, Christopher, was born with severe neurological and visual impairments. For many years, the Rowes’ courageous response to adversity set an example for a group of Brooklyn mothers who met to discuss the challenges of raising children with birth defects. Then Bob Rowe’s pressures — professional and personal — took their toll, and he fell into depression and, ultimately delusion. And one day he took a baseball bat and killed his three children and his wife. In Facing the Wind, Julie Salamon not only tells the Rowes’ tragic story but also explores the lives of others drawn into it: the mothers, a social worker with problems of her own, an ocularist — that is, a man who makes prosthetic eyes — a young woman who enters the novitiate out of shame over her childhood sexual activities, and a judge of unusual wisdom. Facing the Wind is a work of redemptive compassion and understanding. It addresses the questions of how human beings cope with the burdens that chance inflicts upon them and what constitutes moral and legal guilt and innocence.
This true-crime story reaches beyond the relatively narrow focus of the genre to ask painful and provocative questions about guilt and forgiveness. In 1978, Bob Rowe, an out-of-work Brooklyn lawyer, killed his two sons, his daughter and wife by bashing their heads in with a baseball bat. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and after several years in a mental institution was released. He later remarried and had another daughter. Although journalist Salamon (Net of Dreams) did not interview Rowe before his death in 1977, this expertly crafted account is informed by diligent research and interviews with his second wife, Colleen, as well as with a women's support group to which Rowe's first wife, Mary, had belonged. This group was made up of mothers whose children, like Rowe's son Christopher, were born with severe physical impairments. One of the strengths of Salamon's sensitive narrative is her depiction of these mothers and how they dealt with the strain of raising disabled children. The Rowe's seemingly good marriage and his deep involvement in Christopher's care made Mary's murder all the more incomprehensible to the women, who never forgave him. Salamon adequately details Rowe's depression and subsequent mental breakdown that preceded the killings. She also describes how he painfully built a new life and found Colleen, who forgave him for his past. After her husband's death, Colleen met with the members of Mary's support group. Salamon provides a riveting account of this meeting, where Colleen attempts to explain why she loved her husband, and the women try to understand how she could forgive him. National publicity.