cover image Blue Genes: A Memoir of Loss and Survival

Blue Genes: A Memoir of Loss and Survival

Christopher Lukas, . . Doubleday, $24.95 (248pp) ISBN 978-0-385-52520-6

In a supremely brave effort literally to save his own life, Lukas shatters the silence surrounding the long history of suicide in his Hungarian-German-Jewish family, especially that of his older brother, J. Anthony Lukas (“Tony”). Depression and what is now diagnosed as bipolar disorder hounded various family members, most notably the brothers' beautiful college-educated actress mother, Elizabeth, whose deepening depression, exacerbated no doubt by the sense of guilt and inadequacy in her marriage, led her to cut her own throat in 1941, when the boys were just six and eight. Lukas writes with the reassuring sagacity of hindsight, knowing the negative long-term effects of his mother's mental illness on his brother especially, but at the time her death was mysterious and devastating, and the brothers' relationship grew mutually needy and protective, on the one hand, and fractious and competitive, on the other. Feelings of betrayal, guilt and rage erupted at points during the successful careers for both brothers—Tony as a driven journalist with the New York Times and author (Common Ground ) who won two Pulitzer prizes; and Christopher (“Kit”), an Emmy Award–winning TV producer, author and actor. For Tony, however, who married late, remained childless and took antidepressants, his illness was debilitating, leading him to suicide in 1997. In clear, forceful prose, the author attempts to make sense of these calamities and assert a life-affirming purpose. (Sept.)