Bookmarks Issue: 

The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates

A-AreYouThereAloneAre You There Alone? details a crime that captured headlines in June 2001: a woman, citing Satan's influence, drowned her five children. Based on in-depth interviews and testimony from more than 100 people, this book chronicles the factors that led Andrea Yates to murder her children and leads readers through the botched trial, verdict, and sentencing. O'Malley, an investigative reporter whose reports on Yates appeared in The New York Times Magazine and other publications, clarifies many misconceptions about Yates and her family. She shows that Yates suffered from severe mental illness and that her loyal husband tried to understand his wife's depression. Ultimately, this book reveals a flawed mental healthcare system that explains, in part, Yates's "unspeakable crime."
Simon & Schuster. 281 pages. $25.

Hartford Courant 4 of 5 Stars
"After her children were dead, she told authorities that she thought she needed to kill them to save them. ... the real story is far more complicated." Susan Campbell

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"This riveting book puts a human face on a larger social issue. What happens when the violent actions of an improperly medicated mentally ill person intersect with the legal system? Who bears the responsibility?" Deirdre Donahue

Rocky Mtn News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The book is written in a straightforward, journalistic style that, while not as compelling as the subject matter could be, is informative and thought-provoking." Verna Noel Jones

Houston Chronicle 3 of 5 Stars
"While there is much to admire about O'Malley's work, it at times lapses into the imprecision she attributes to the case's prosecutors and defense attorneys. That said, Are You There Alone? is a timely call to reflection on a case that has brought international scrutiny to the way the mentally ill interface with the criminal justice system." Allan Turner

Plain Dealer 3 of 5 Stars
"Despite the lurid title, this is no tabloid treatise. ... In the end, O'Malley's professionalism carries this harrowing book." Karen R. Long

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"O'Malley's writing is often tedious: long on detail, short on analysis, and panderingly overstocked with items.... But her dogged research may have saved Andrea Yates's life. That is reason enough to value this book." Debbie Nathan

Critical Summary

O'Malley brings dignity to the true crime genre with Are You There Alone?. Through her in-depth research, interviews, and personal correspondence, O'Malley exposes the history of Yates's mental illness, attempted suicides, and the medical system that failed her. She asserts that if Yates had received a proper diagnosis and appropriate medical treatment, her children might still be alive today. While some critics found O'Malley's writing tedious, most were impressed with her exhaustive details, analysis of Yates's medical condition, and corrective to the media's story. Indeed, her attention to detail contributed to the discovery of a major flaw in the prosecution's case. Unfortunately, it came too late to reverse the jury's guilty plea, but influenced Yates's sentence of life in prison, rather than death, sentence. Overall, this book offers compelling insight into mental illness, healthcare, childcare, and the legal system.