Words from Dorothy

Words From Dorothy


Written over 2,500 years ago, the author set into motion a powerful series of events about a woman, who after sacrificing everything for her husband, was discarded and threatened with exile. For revenge, she murdered their two sons. Euripides has the Greek chorus ask, “How does she have the heart to kill her flesh and blood?”

That question is still with us. Timothy Mariano, MD, Alpert School of Medicine, Brown University estimates that there are 500 filicides a year and that seventy-five percent of those murdered are children under six years. Furthermore, he reveals that those statistics hold true year-after-year. And so, each time we read a newspaper account of one of these horrific crimes, we ask ourselves the same question: how can a mother (or father) murder his or her children.

When I began the novel, I have to admit that I thought the book was going to be much more of a blockbuster than it turned out to be. After all, I reasoned, the magnitude of the question suggests a story of such epochal proportions that it would surely rank among the great American literary accomplishments. But it didn’t quite turn out that way. Instead it is a quiet book about a young woman who, despite her ambition and self-absorption, comes to understand her girlhood friend and the betrayals that changed them both forever.

After working on this book for five years, I actually ended up in the same place as Euripides. Each time I read about a mother who has murdered her children, I ask myself how did she have the heart to kill. Unable to find a reason, I still don’t have the answer. But at least, I’m in good company. After all, Euripides’ work lasted this long. There must be hope for my book.

Although I will not join Euripides in the pantheon of great writers, I find that I did enjoy working through Sarah’s struggle and discover her willingness to see beyond the simple explanations for JoBeth’s tragedy. Perhaps that’s the best we can do.