The Girl Behind the Door
A Father's Quest to Understand His Daughter's Suicide
“A moving and riveting memoir about one family’s love and tragedy…beautifully researched, and expressed” (Anne Lamott).
Early one Tuesday morning John Brooks went to his teenage daughter’s room. Casey was gone, but she had left a note: The car is parked at the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m sorry. Within hours a security video showed Casey stepping off the bridge.
Brooks spent several years after Casey’s suicide trying to understand what led his seventeen-year-old daughter to take her life. He examines Casey’s journey from her abandonment at birth in Poland, to the orphanage where she lived for her first fourteen months, to her adoption and life with John and his wife, Erika, in Northern California. He reads. He talks to Casey’s friends, teachers, doctors, therapists, and other parents. He consults adoption experts, researchers, clinicians, attachment therapists, and social workers.
In The Girl Behind the Door, Brooks’s “desperate search for answers and guilt for not doing the right thing without knowing what it was reveals the utter helplessness of suicide survivors” (Kirkus Reviews). Ultimately, Brooks comes to realize that Casey probably suffered an attachment disorder from her infancy—an affliction common among children who’ve been orphaned, neglected, and abused. She might have been helped if someone had recognized this. The Girl Behind the Door is an important book for parents, mental health professionals, and teens: “Rarely have the subjects of suicide, adoption, adolescence, and parenting been explored so openly and honestly” (John Bateson, Former Executive Director, Contra Costa County Crisis Center, and author of The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge).
In this memoir sometimes riveting, but more often whiny and pedestrian Brooks recalls how joy turned to exhaustion, anger, and frustration as he and his wife struggled to understand their adopted daughter, Casey. They located the young girl, who appeared to be a good match for them, and underwent the arduous journey to Poland to adopt her and joyously bring her home to start their new lives together. By the time she was eight, she descended into raging tantrums over minor matters, such as waiting in line for ice cream, and she refused to defer to authority or to give up control without intense protests. In adolescence, Casey's behavior oscillates between happiness and anger, and she often retreats behind the closed door of her bedroom after battles with her parents. Brooks is desperate to reach her, frequently blaming himself and painfully asking himself what he's doing wrong as a father. The tale grows all too typical by the time Casey threatens to run away and live in the streets and Brooks simply yells at her to go ahead. When she commits suicide, Brooks is stunned and devastated and wonders why his daughter killed herself, but unfortunately he is so consumed with himself and his attempt to be a good father that he never takes the time to connect or understand his daughter. In the end he looks not to himself but to others who might have helped him truly understand her, and he admits that "the information I needed to keep her alive was out there... I had never thought to look."
Redwood high school
My son went to school w Casey the culture of that area for student is intense .. the wealth and education of the parents in that area is not something anybody else would fully comprehend. When I asked my son why he thought she did it his answer was simply 'pressure' 'high school was awful' thus from a star athlete there finishing law school now at an Ivy League school.... my heart goes out to these people and as a native San Franciscan I will support the fund for a net I too believe if it had been in place maybe it would have made a difference and if maybe is all we have I'll take it . Lea