Girl of Light & Shadow

A Memoir of My Daughter, Who Killed Herself

Non-Fiction - Memoir
537 Pages
Reviewed on 01/31/2023
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Author Biography

Jay E. Valusek, MS, MEd, CPPC, is an award-winning writer, scientist, educator, meditation teacher, pain self-management specialist, positive psychology coach, and solution-focused psychotherapist in private practice, currently specializing in suicide bereavement support, education and recovery, primarily for parents who have lost a child to suicide. He is a member of the American Association of Suicidology, the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado, and the Open Path Psychotherapy Collective. This is his fourth memoir.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Girl of Light & Shadow: A Memoir of My Daughter, Who Killed Herself by Jay E. Valusek is the non-fiction inspirational memoir that revolves around the tragic, unexpected death of the author's child Elissa and the incredible journey of discovery that it invoked. One would normally consider a young woman who worked in the Peace Corps community as unclouded in purpose and outlook, or who growing up seemed to have such a grasp on her personal agency that in the 7th grade she'd change her name from Beth to Elissa. But all from the outside was not as it appeared and following a series of events and deep personal losses, Elissa made the decision that this world and this life were not for her. In the aftermath, her father, Valusek, throws himself into trying to piece together what happened and finds an astonishing network of otherworldly markers.

It's important for readers to approach Girl of Light & Shadow with an open mind. If one is willing and able to do this, the story that Jay E. Valusek retells is not just enlightening, but the type of compassionate message that will give those of us who have also lost in a similar fashion a large dose of hope. Hope that there is more to this life than we know. Hope that there is more out there that we don't know. Hope that those we love are with us indefinitely, and not only in the ways that we've been spoon-fed by religious leaders with vague assurances that they are 'looking down on us'. Valusek, first and foremost, started as an academic. I am reminded of my father who, when asked what his religion is, answers 'academia'. This is why what Valusek reveals feels extremely authentic and, frankly, one hundred percent believable. I'm not going to give the whole shop away at once, but I'm happy to provide a message for readers who are skeptical of Valusek's discovery from one of the more incredible parts of the book: Go to hell. And yes, he means that literally. Very highly recommended.

Vincent Dublado

Girl of Light & Shadow: A Memoir of My Daughter, Who Killed Herself by Jay E. Valusek is an extraordinary memoir wherein the author pays tribute to a daughter’s death by chronicling his journey to finding the answer behind his daughter’s haunting suicide. The tragic, unforgettable date is July 18, 2028, the day when Elizabeth Anne Valusek, a Peace Corps volunteer, took her own life. It is a story in which Beth’s death is not the end of the story but the beginning of a new one--an account of a profound odyssey. This tale doesn’t only focus on the harrowing aftermath of losing a beloved child, but on finding the answer to the persistent question of why she did it. This question, if left unanswered, becomes far more painful for the surviving parent than the committed act.

As a practicing psychotherapist, Jay E. Valusek has sound reasons to dig deep into the anatomy of his daughter’s suicide. The things he learned are what make this memoir a thought-provoking read that serves two purposes: to honor the memory of a daughter and to use her as a study to uncover the why behind the motive of suicide. Valusek just had to know. Otherwise, he would have suffered greater damage in the long run. While every suicide case is different, the stigma of the aftermath often takes a step toward common ground like guilt and blame. What makes Girl of Light & Shadow a truly remarkable memoir about suicide is Valusek’s dedication to unearthing the root cause of Beth’s suicide through diligent scientific inquiry. As the suicides of celebrities Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain have drawn attention, this book will further open awareness and channels for discussion. Highly recommended.

Foluso Falaye

Jay E. Valusek began to panic when he was unable to contact his daughter, Elizabeth Anne Valusek, who was in Africa to see friends serving in the Peace Corps. Not long after this, he discovered that his daughter had committed suicide at the Royal Gorge Bridge, a bridge with a one-hundred percent death rate. Subsequently, he set out to uncover the societal elements and other factors that had led to his daughter's suicidal thoughts and depression. Girl of Light and Shadow is a moving, in-depth, and captivating examination of society's role in mental health issues told through the eyes of a father who lost his daughter to suicide. The book also discusses Elizabeth Anne Valusek's decisions and conditions while she was alive, as well as her choices and circumstances in other dimensions.

Girl of Light and Shadow contains a deeply insightful exploration of family troubles, the Peace Corps, alcoholism, depression, and loneliness. Additionally, the characterization of the protagonists is quite impressive and eye-opening, going as far back as Elizabeth's childhood and her parents' youth, marriage, and divorce. It was pretty distressing for me to see Elizabeth being rejected and discriminated against by her own country because she was suffering from depression. Hopefully, psychology specialists and enthusiasts who will favorably affect mental health treatment will read this book and be guided by its intellectual arguments, relevant references, and engaging stories. My approach to revisiting upsetting situations has been permanently altered by Girl of Light and Shadow. I shall now observe them from many perspectives and seek the small joys and memories that they secretly harbor, as Jay E. Valusek has done in his memorable, multidimensional narrative.

Liz Tampe

Hello - I have greatly benefitted from Jay's book. There are so many moments when I was rooting for his daughter and I found myself completely immersed in the experiences that Jay described. Jay's writing is rich and powerful. He is able to recount images and scenes that truly took my breath away. I read the book in a weekend on my phone on Kindle - couldn't put it down. It was a roller coaster ride. I am happy to give this book 5 stars. Highly recommend for anyone interested!