A Mother’s Memoir

A Mother’s Memoir

Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir

Sharples, Madeline





“A moving read of tragedy, trying to prevent it, and coping with life after.” Midwest Book Review

“Brave and Gritty. Innovative. Resourceful. Inspiring.” Story Circle Book Reviews

“Intense. This story will transform you and change the way you look at the world.” Vine Leaves Literary Journal

“Poetically visceral, emotionally honest. An extraordinary memoir.” Irvin D. Godofsky, MD

“Moving, intimate and very inspiring.” Mark Shelmerdine, CEO, Jeffers Press

“The courage and strength of will it took to write this book is matched by the superb writing, the clarity of emotional insight, and the uplifting music of its brave prose.” Jack Grapes, author of The Naked Eye and Method Writing

“A sad but beautifully written book for anyone who has lost someone they love.” Dina Kucera, author of Everything I Never Wanted to Be

Leaving the Hall Light On charts the near-destruction of one middle-class family whose son committed suicide after a seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder. Madeline Sharples, author, poet and web journalist, goes deep into her own well of grief to describe her anger, frustration and guilt. She describes many attempts – some successful, some not – to have her son committed to hospital and to keep him on his medication. The book also charts her and her family’s redemption, how she considered suicide herself, and ultimately, her decision to live and take care of herself as a woman, wife, mother and writer.

A note from the author: I encourage you to read my book if you have been touched by bipolar disorder or suicide. And even if you have not, my book will inspire you to survive your own tragedies. As author Jessica Bell says: Leaving the Hall Light On is “a remarkable book and it SHOULD be read.”

A note from the publisher: I have seen Madeline Sharples read from her memoir and talk about her son’s suicide at multiple events. Afterwards, people always come up to Madeline to tell her “My son killed himself too” or “My husband committed suicide,” etc. Sometimes the people can’t even talk. They are in tears, and they just want to hold Madeline’s hand for a minute or ask for a hug. Clearly, there are a lot of people who have experienced the suicide of a loved one. And clearly, they don’t have many opportunities to share their grief. That’s why they are quick to embrace Madeline when they hear her story. They connect, and they always thank her for sharing her story. I tell you this because I have heard from a small handful of people who believe that Madeline is selfish to focus on her story when the real victim of this tragedy was her son. I find that criticism hypocritical on multiple fronts. Madeline would be the first to agree that the person who suffered most is Paul, her son. There is no question about that. And Madeline honors Paul’s memory by volunteering her time to prevent suicide and erase the stigma of mental illness — and by telling Paul’s story in the first part of the book. But Paul is gone, and the tragedy did not end with his suicide. For survivors, a suicide is only the beginning of suffering. Most people carry that suffering with them for years, rarely talking about it. But Madeline Sharples is willing to talk about what happens after a suicide. For her (and for many others), what happens is a journey deep into one’s self in the hope of maintaining sanity and having some semblance of a life after a loved one commits suicide. To call a journey into the self “selfish” misses the point. If you have experienced the suicide of a loved one, you already know this. If you have not experienced such a tragedy, be thankful, and look at Leaving the Hall Light On as an example of what it takes to enable the “self” to survive a tragedy of that magnitude.


“I recommend this book to not only those who lost a child or who struggle with the mental illness of a child, but to anyone at all who wants a deep, intimate read where the author bares her soul and lets you into her world!” – Bonni Rubinstein, Organizer of the Facebook group “Loss of an Adult or Young Adult Child”

“A poetically visceral, emotionally honest account of the author’s experience with her son’s bipolar disorder, his suicide, and her family’s grief and adaptation to their terrible loss. I will be a better, more empathic psychiatrist, and a better person and friend after having read this extraordinary memoir.” – Irvin D. Godofsky, M.D.

“Leaving the Hall Light On left me in tears. It is a heart-wrenching book; I could not put it down. Anyone who wants to learn how to live with children or adults with bipolar disorder, must read this book.” – Mary Barrett, The Nashville (Illinois) News

“Brave and Gritty. Innovative. Resourceful. Inspiring. Should be encouraging to many who are waiting for recovery from similar trauma or loss. Sure to increase your understanding and compassion for others in turmoil.” Sharon Lippincott, Story Circle Network Reviews

“I would recommend this book to suicide survivors, and I also invite mental health professionals to read it. I would be willing to bet that Madeline Sharples is much more honest about what it is like to survive suicide than most patients and clients allow themselves to be.” – Fran Edstrom, the American Association of Suicidology


This book is a testament to the power of the human soul. It shows the strength of a woman and a family who had to go through the worst human tragedy, and get to the other side in a loving, peaceful and compassionate way. This is the most honest and heartfelt story about losing a son to suicide. She just tells it like it is and anyone can relate to that. They were just a normal regular family who had the worst happen to them. They all got out the other side stronger, closer, healthier, productive and positive. It makes you feel that nothing is too painful. Madeline Sharples lovingly tells the world that anyone can come out the other side, healed and excited about life. I cannot recommend this book more highly. I could not put it down. I loved this book. It make me want to run 20miles, eat healthy, write, create, see my friends and live my life to the fullest. Madeline is an incredible writer that leaves you wanting more. Extraordinary!!

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The prime concern of any well-adjusted parent is to take responsibility for their children’s well being—to love and nurture them into adulthood, and beyond. The difficulty to ‘let go’ often seems to be the norm rather than the exception, so I can’t even begin to imagine how you deal with a child’s premature death, let alone if it’s due to suicide. Sharples has no choice but to do all of the above, plus she plucks up courage to write the story and in doing so probes into the painful details of her eldest son’s battle with bipolar disorder, a traumatic time that impacted all the members of her family.

As the author so rightly states, we all deal with loss in unique ways—she tries to keep his memory alive, a mission that has allowed her to illuminate the mental disorder together with heartfelt advice, and to try and remove the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder and similar mental illnesses. She deserves applause for her courage and gratitude for her generosity. Although this is not an easy story to read, the writing flows well and readers are left to believe what they want and take from it what they need.

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Barnes & Noble

I was very moved by this book. The poetry in every chapter was inspirational and beautiful. I read the book twice and felt a range of emotions each time. This is a story about loss and rebirth. A short life does not mean an incomplete life. I highly recommend this to anyone who is ready to explore their deepest feelings.

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