Hesitation Wounds by Amy Koppelman
The Overlook Press, 2015; 192 pp
Reviewed by Charlie Riccardelli


“Surviving grief requires relentless negotiation with narrative,” a character says late into Amy Koppelman’s piercing and hauntingly poetic novel Hesitation Wounds. The line is adrift in the memories of Susanna, a psychiatrist who specializes in patients with treatment-resistant depression as she briefly remembers the words of a surgeon she once dated. How do you give meaning to a life after it’s gone? How can we remember or recover what we no longer have? These ideas and many others wrestle within Susanna as she falls through her memories, many built around her late brother who died as a teenager. Years later she’s hurdled back into those memories she’s tried to bury once she learns of a patient’s suicide. For too long Susanna has denied herself the chance to build a life with others because she fears she might lose them. Her decades, of agony, love, and fear are portrayed by Koppelman in such a nakedly honest way that reading Hesitation Wounds felt like glimpsing the most private emotions of someone who struggling with deep personal pain. I felt unprepared for the depths the novel took me, nor could I easily shake this unflinching and powerful work.