While working on his second novel, John Sedgwick spiraled into a depression so profound that it very nearly resulted in suicide. An author acclaimed for his intimate literary excursions into the rarified, moneyed enclave of Brahmin Boston, he decided to search for the roots of his malaise in the history of his own storied family—one of America's oldest and most notable. Following a bloodline that travels from Theodore Sedgwick, compatriot of George Washington and John Adams, to Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol's tragic muse, John Sedgwick's very personal journey of self-discovery became something far greater: a spellbinding study of the evolution of an extraordinary American family.
In this overwritten family biography\x96cum\x96memoir, novelist Sedgwick (The Education of Mrs. Bemis ) traces in great detail multiples generations of his wealthy yet ill-starred family. Beginning with his own near suicide, Sedgwick takes the unrelenting trials and tribulations of his family and tries to tie them to some parallel history of the U.S. It doesn't work. Reaching back to the late 18th century, the family Sedgwick was in the upper tier of New England society. In Sedgwick's telling, Theodore Sedgwick, a prosperous attorney, set the family off to its posh but difficult history by swindling an old Native American woman out of her property in western Massachusetts. Building a grand country home\x97a home that would become both family redoubt and scene of some intergenerational depravities\x97Theodore suffered from what would now be diagnosed as depression. In fact, depression and madness dog the coming generations most famously in the incarnation of Edie Sedgwick, Warhol superstar, world-class drug addict and celebrity suicide. This memoir is not without its pleasures. Sedgwick has a keen eye for detail and a voracious appetite for family lore and history (Catherine Maria Sedgwick was a popular mid-18th-century author; Kyra Sedgwick is an actress). The finely honed prose glides along effortlessly; it just doesn't add up to much.