Facing the Wind [Secure]
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by Julie Salamon
Category: True Crime/General Nonfiction
Description: 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.
eBook Publisher: Random House, Inc., 2001
Filament eBookStore Release Date: June 2002
10 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [583 KB]
Reading time: 257-360 min.
All formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
GEOGRAPHIC RESTRICTIONS: The publisher of this eBook only allows sale to customers in: US
"Readers should experience the suspense for themselves . . . Facing the Wind had me tossing at night and racing to finish it by day. It is a rare combination of superb reporting and narrative skill . . . It is not a book that can be read and forgotten."--James B. Stewart, New York Times Book Review
"Happily for the reader, Ms. Salamon is a fine reporter . . . In tackling the issue of personal heroism, Facing the Wind brings home the point that while certain of life's difficulties can be fought and conquered, others must simply be borne with digity. From what depths do humans draw the strength to do that? What is their reward?"
--The New York Times
"A suspenseful, well-researched account of the life of a Brooklyn lawyer Robert Rowe, who murdered his wife and three children and escaped prison with the insanity please in 1978 . . . A perturbing read that prods us to ponder guilt and innocence from new perspectives."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"This true-crime story reaches beyond the relatively narrow focus of the genre to ask painful and provocative questions about guilt and forgiveness."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
"--Carmela Ciuraru, The Wall Street Journal
"This book will be a fascinating read. Well written and heavily researched, it clearly demonstrates Salamon's prowess and her journalistic roots. Readers will not easily forget this tale."--Library Journal
I first heard of the Rowe family in the summer of 1995, when my second child was eight months old. It was a happy time for me. My children were healthy and well cared for -- and I was incapable of making that assertion without knocking on wood. Why tempt fate? I knew terrible things could happen whether or not I lived up to my parental responsibilities.
I had been exploring various subjects to write about when a friend introduced me to Edith Patt, who for many years had been the chief social worker at the Industrial Home for the Blind in Brooklyn and had a story to tell. In the early 1970s, Edith had organized a support group for the mothers of blind children enrolled in the agency's nursery school. Some of the children had additional handicaps, including severe autism and inexplicable seizures, and there was one case of bilateral anophthalmia -- a child who was born without eyes. The women had developed abiding friendships that helped them weather motherhood in its most difficult form. Now their children were grown and the women -- the mothers, as they called themselves -- were interested in having someone write about their experiences. Their higher purpose may have been to help others who found themselves in similar straits, but they also wanted recognition for the battles they'd fought on the domestic front. Their struggles may not have had the cinematic "glamour" of war, but they were as searing to the spirit. While most wars come to an end, caring for a handicapped child is a lifelong obligation.
I listened with fascination and sympathy and admiration -- and terror. I wasn't sure I was prepared to immerse myself in the heartrending details that would force me to face my worst fears about being a mother. I was still hesitating when Edith's story took an unexpected turn.
The IHB mothers had become friends because of their children, but they were bound together when one of them was killed, along with her three children. The woman was Mary Rowe. The weapon was a baseball bat. The killer was her husband, and he had always been an exemplary father, a lawyer, a man the women knew and admired. Robert Rowe was declared not guilty by reason of insanity in 1978, spent two and a half years in mental hospitals before being released, and then tried to resume normal life.
It was a monstrous story, but Edith Patt assured me that this was not a monstrous man. I was drawn in. I spent the next four years learning as much as I could about these families, whose lives were yoked by contingency and fate. I interviewed the mothers and their husbands, children, doctors, and social workers. I studied Robert Rowe's court records and psychiatric files. I found out that the case had become a legal curiosity, provoking yet another debate about the limits and usefulness of the insanity defense. But I also discovered that for those who were involved, before and after the killings, this was a tragedy, not an intellectual exercise. From it arose a wellspring of questions about responsibility and guilt, retribution and forgiveness: We do what we can to hold chaos at bay, but what if we can't? Why can some people assume responsibilities in trying circumstances; why are others crushed by them?
The narrative that emerged was not "uplifting" in a conventional sense, though it included moving chronicles of survival and renewal. Nor was it condemnatory, though it contained an act of horrible violence. But in the stories of these mothers, fathers, and children I encountered uncommon strains of human resilience and was gratified, even as I prayed never to be tested -- not like that.
Copyright © 2001 by Julie Salamon