The Liar’s Club

by Mary Karr

the-liars-club-mary-karr

How to review a book of this nature? It is basically like casting judgment on someone’s life and what they have gone through. I’m in a memoir phase lately, which in and of itself is a bit of a surprise. I’ve always maintained that if you write an entire book about yourself you should definitely have done something mildly noteworthy. Is having a crappy childhood, and equally crappy adolescence noteworthy?
Can it teach anything? Is teaching and being ‘relatable’ its own end? When I finish reading a memoir I eventually have to decide what feeling am I left with? Am I uplifted? Am I depressed? Am I given hope? I tend to like the memoirs that end on a hopeful note… Karr’s didn’t quite get there.

Karr’s parents (particularly her mother) were dysfunctional alcoholics. And when I say dysfunctional, I mean that they don’t care for each other, and they don’t care for their children terribly well. Now, as I say this, realize that Karr is writing this book and though she lets her mother and sister read it before publication, we are seeing events through her eyes. Karr begins with her earliest memory of her home being set on fire, and a family doctor trying to determine whether or not Karr is okay. Later we learn that Karr’s mother may or may not have tried to kill her. Karr and her older sister Lecia learn to take care of themselves and each other as well as they can despite radical shifts in their parents temperaments and priorities. Karr’s parents met in Texas in 1950, she was on her fourth marriage, and he was a Texas roughneck. They would marry and divorce, only two remarry. Karr’s mother would have an impressive (or depressive) seven husbands when all was said and done. So I’ve diagnosed Karr’s mother with some creative mental illnesses. To Karr’s credit (I guess, though it isn’t the right word), she is pretty matter of fact about her mom’s shortcomings. I don’t know if she is overly forgiving of her mother and a little hypercritical of her father whose largest problem I can tell was ever hooking up with Karr’s mom. Either way, she doesn’t seem as bitter as other people in similar situations. When the family receives a windfall of money they hit the road and end up in Colorado. There Karr’s mom quickly picks up another husband, and Karr’s father returns to Texas. The money does not solve any of the Karr’s problems and only seems to enhance the alcoholism, depression, poor decisions, and influx of men. Eventually, the family returns to Texas, but not before Karr is sexually abused.

I’ve not read Karr’s other books, Cherry or Lit which go into greater detail about Karr’s sexual abuse (sadly, multiple times, multiple offenders, but that is not a unique story when parents are disengaged or too trusting), but Karr deals frankly with these incidents in this memoir. They are stomach churning and heart breaking, but not dwelt on in a manner to shock or fixate or cast blame. She handles these portions of the book more delicately than she handles her mother’s breakdowns/suicide attempts/attempted murders and I appreciated that she didn’t try to thrust these events into the readers faces as if to say, “See! See how bad my life was! And look at me now!” She does allude to other tragedies and other secrets that a reader will no doubt learn in her other books, but I’ve had enough, thanks. The relationship that I found most interesting in the book is Karr’s relationship with her sister, Lisa. They are different in temperament, looks, and political leanings. Even while they fight one another there is an underlying pride  and attachment that is clearly illustrated as Karr brags about her sister’s unflinching courage. That is the essence of family, I suppose, and maybe a bit of what Karr was trying to say. Even when your sister becomes everything you despise (a rich Republican) you still love her because you went through the same fight, and the same trauma. We also learn the supposed cause of Karr’s mother’s insanity (though, I have my doubts…).

While Karr manages to capture what it is like to be the product of a truly messed up childhood, one wonders how accurate the narrative is. Clearly, “I had some nice days and some good times and felt genuine love” doesn’t sell as well as “my mom may have tried to kill me and I was sexually abused”. I am probably being unfair, but I imagine Karr’s life is not unique in its tragedy especially in the 1960s in Texas oil country. I’d imagine there are dozens of childhoods as bad or worse. Karr mentions that she still gets letters from people who have been touched by her story, or relate to it. I suppose that is something, and while this certainly isn’t the best memoir I’ve read, I can imagine that it might make some people feel better about their own situations which is indeed something.

buy this book button

Leave a Reply

Uprooted

by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Kim Novak

Guys, this book was good. Also, let me put it out there THIS IS A STAND ALONE BOOK!!! Hallelujah! Finally! Read More »

Merlin’s Keep

by Madeleine Brent

Merlin's Keep by Madeleine Brent

Take a trip with me to nostalgia town. Really, I first read Madeleine Brent the summer before I turned 13 and I thought they were the BEST books ever. Back in that time my idea of romance came from Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. Then I discovered Madeleine Brent, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Georgette Heyer. They were my Jr. High staples, and for a LONG while (longer than I’d like to admit) I would re-read my favorites each year.
Read More »

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

So, apparently Jenny Lawson writes a beloved blog. I did not know that when I put this on my Christmas wishlist. I thought the description was intriguing enough and at this point in my life various people I know have suddenly become depressed, are seeking help for depression, or are recovering from depression. I was hoping to get a humorous insight into the disordered or depressed mind… that isn’t exactly what I got. Read More »

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-year-old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny

by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresnioski

Get ready with the tissues because this book is full of big feelings. In this day and age negative race relations is big money as it sells newspapers, has splashy headlines, and evokes strong emotions. Unfortunately the media has seized on the negativity in a way the early yellow journalists manufactured threats, wars, and published rumor as fact. Read More »

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

by Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne Valente

I’ve been vocal about my support for Valente and her work but I can not lie to  you, this last book took me way too long to get into. I just didn’t find the story as compelling no matter how prettily it was written. Read More »

The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Fun back story, because I know you come for the back story. My husband bought me this book (it has been on my to-read list… a VERY long list) from a used book store for Christmas two years ago. Inside there is an inscription “To my sweet Love Jo, I hope you’ll enjoy this book… and many more that I plan to give you :) Always yours, Oren Liberman” Then there was some Hebrew (?) and it was dated Feb 9th 2015. So… the detective in me goes to work. Jo could either be I guy or a gal, I am assuming Oren is a man, a man who plans to give many more books and likes to write smiley faces. What happened to Oren and Jo? A mere few months later this book was in a used bookstore being purchased by my guy who likes to give me books. Did one of them die? Was there a falling out? Was Jo using Oren for the books? Cold, Jo, so cold.  Read More »

The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder

by Daniel Stashower

The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder by Daniel Stashower

Congrats to Stashower for introducing me to a true crime that I knew next to nothing about. Sometime, somewhere, in some article or book or other I knew that Edgar Allan Poe had based one of his stories on the murder of Mary Rogers, but that is about it. I looked forward to learning a bit more about the whole affair. And MAN, affair it was. Really this book tells two stories. The first is of Edgar Allan Poe, a lonely, kind of ungratious, impetuous writer. The second is of Mary Rogers, a young girl with secrets who happens to get killed and to this day no one knows exactly who did it. I hate to admit it, but the Poe stuff was very secondary and when the story switched to follow him it always took me a couple paragraphs (or pages!) to actually care again. Not a good sign, but overall, I enjoyed the book.

Read More »

The Haunted Bookshop

by Christopher Morley

The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

If I had to pick one word to describe The Haunted Bookshop it would be “charming”. As I was reading it, I felt struck that the old fashioned whimsey could be captured in a play, or in old movie musicals the kind that star Gene Kelly and have a fair amount of tap dancing. Anything that evokes Gene Kelly tap dancing is okay for me.  Read More »

Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission

by Hampton Sides

Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission by Hampton Sides

I keep telling you I am going to stop reading books about World War II, and I keep reading books about World War II. I am in that vicious Can’t Stop/Won’t Stop cycle. Apologies again and always, but I love me some World War II books, and spoiler alert, I’ve started reading spy books about that era so you are going to be in for it for a long time. Read More »

The Quickening Maze

by Adam Foulds

The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds

Another Man Booker finalist. I distrust them but keep reading them. The Quickening Maze is an interesting book that I found well written and compelling. Notice I didn’t say it was enjoyable, because I find it hard to enjoy mental illness, and Foulds deftly created a world that indeed felt like a maze. Read More »

Bastards

by Mary Anna King

Bastards by Mary Anna King

I come from a stable home. Two parents who are still together and just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Four kids. A few regular ups and downs but certainly my childhood was filled with a sense of security and well-being if not full of ponies and sweet sixteen parties. My life could not be more different than King’s but I enjoyed reading an account of someone who was able to reconcile a tumultuous childhood and examine it in front of the world. Read More »

Sole Sisters: Stories of Women and Running

by Jennifer Lin and Susan Warner

Sole Sisters: Stories of Women and Running by Jennifer Lin and Susan Warner

I used to be am a runner, but until I regain my former running glory, I made the goal to read one running book a month to keep the inspiration alive as I’ve battled through an IT band injury, knee-injury, various pregnancies (okay, only three), and the sleep depravation associated with having three kids 5 and under in my life. Read More »

M is for Malice

by Sue Grafton

M is for Malice by Sue Grafton

It seems like Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone is always getting involved in uncomfortable family dynamics in these books.
Read More »

I is for Innocent

by Sue Grafton

I is for Innocent by Sue Grafton

Another of the earlier Kinsey Millhone books. This time has Kinsey picking up mid investigation for a PI who died of a heart attack while working on a civil suit (or did he die of a heart attack… dun dun dun…)  Read More »

Fearless Fourteen

by Janet Evanovich

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich keeps cracking these books out, and I keep reading them. Read More »

Lean Mean Thirteen

by Janet Evanovich

Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum, our hapless heroine is back to her old tricks. I think I mentioned that I am getting tired of this series in general. But when one gets books for free one reads them. Especially when I am in the midst of trying wean #3 and perhaps Evanovich’s light fare are all I can handle mentally right now.

Read More »

The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-map Dealer who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps

by Michael Blanding

The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps by Michael Blanding

I love maps. I do. In all my dreams of having the “perfect” room (you can go ahead and imagine a library because all my perfect rooms are library dreams) it has maps all over the place. We moved into our current home about 4 years ago (wow, time flies! I remember unpacking all those books when we got here just like it was yesterday) and I am finally getting around to decorating our bedroom. I found the most amazing map printed on glass over some translucent turquoise  painting. It is awesome. I keep waiting for it to go down in price to something remotely reasonable, and one day IT WILL BE MINE. What I’m saying is, I get a guy wanting to steal maps. I understand why people would collect them and preserve them. In short, I get this book. Read More »

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

by Helen Rappaport

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport

Does the world need another book about the Romanovs? That is the question. I’m not exactly sure that it does, but then again I’m not sure that it doesn’t. Helpful, no? There are a slew of nonfiction books about Czarist Russia, Rasputin, the October Revolution, etc and a book has to be unique to add something new to a discourse that has been hashed over to the point of animated musical fodder. Read More »

This is Not a Love Story

by Judy Brown

This is Not a Love Story by Judy Brown

This goes on the record as one of the BEST books I’ve read this year. 2016 has started out with some truly great books, but this one sticks with me. It is Judy Brown’s memories of growing up in a Chassidic jewish family in New York City. She and I have a lot in common, not really, but sort of. Read More »

Deep Blue

by Jennifer Donnelly

Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

You may have noticed that I’m reading a few more YA books than usual. Guilty. Now that #1 is in pre-school he comes home with all these book orders and I can’t resist. I’ve also noticed that when I graduated from University (Go Cougs!) I shortsightedly got rid of my ‘frivolous’ reads and now that my kids are getting ready for real books I am sad that I gave away all my hardcover Harry Potters… So I’ve been trying to get current on what good middle grade or YA books are out there. Read More »

House of Wits: An Intimate Portrait of the James Family

by Paul Fisher

House of Wits: An Intimate Portrait of the James family by Paul Fisher

I’ve been wanting to read this book since it came out. I’ve kept my eye on it and put it on my amazon wish list in hopes my husband would get it for me for Christmas of my birthday. I am VERY easy to shop for. Books, chocolate, and running shoes, in that order. Easy.
Read More »

Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked

by Chris Matthews

Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked by Christ Mathews

No secret. I LOVED Reagan. Loved. Him. Sure I was about a month old when he was elected to office, but he was my first president. I always had an interest (some would say unnatural) in politics. I remember watching the Oliver North trials by choice! Not the average activity of choice for a little kid. Whenever I see that there is a new book out featuring the Reagan presidency, I gobble it up. I was a bit skeptical because Chris Matthews is not well known for fair minded political reporting, but it had REAGAN on the cover so I couldn’t resist.

Read More »

Fathers and Sons

by Ivan Turgenev translated by Richard Freeborn

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

The back of this book reads “This new translation… makes Trugenev’s masterpiece about the conflict between generations seem as fresh, outspoken, and exciting…” blah blah blah. I can tell right now, fresh, outspoken, and exciting are not words I would use to describe this book.  Read More »

The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence

by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore art by Andie Tong

The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence by Stan Lee, Stuart Morre and Andie Tong

I have been looking for books that might interest my son when he gets a bit older. As his interests right now include super heroes, I thought this might be one to check out. I am pleased I did. Read More »

Women of Faith in the Latter Days: Volume One, 1775-1820

edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Brittany A. Chapman

Women of Faith Volume One Edited by Richared E. Turley and Brittany A. Chapman

I’d actually read several excerpts of this book and following volumes and had wanted to sit down and read the entire book. I also hope to get to the rest of the volumes when time permits. Read More »

W.A.R.P The Reluctant Assassin: Book 1

Eoin Colfer

W.A.R.P. the Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

YA sci/fi fantasy isn’t always my go to fiction choice. Lately, though, I’ve started reading a bit in order to find things that I’d like to read with my kids once they get bigger, or things that they’ll be able to read when they want to. I am a book buyer. Some say hoarder, but hey, I like books. Read More »

Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century

by Sergie Kostin and Eric Raynaud translated by Catherine Cauvin-Higgins

Farewell the Greatest Spy of the Twentieth Century by Sergie Kostin and Eric Raynaud

This book was so disappointing. So. Disappointing. I don’t know how you can make such an interesting story boring, but the writers managed to make this book an actual snoozefest if such a thing exists.
Read More »

The Liar’s Club

by Mary Karr

the-liars-club-mary-karr

How to review a book of this nature? It is basically like casting judgment on someone’s life and what they have gone through. I’m in a memoir phase lately, which in and of itself is a bit of a surprise. I’ve always maintained that if you write an entire book about yourself you should definitely have done something mildly noteworthy. Is having a crappy childhood, and equally crappy adolescence noteworthy?
Read More »

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

by Marie Kondo

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Condo

Disclaimer: I am NOT a hoarder, but I do have bit of a reputation for saving every. single. paper. that comes into contact with my life. Read More »

Paper Valentine

by Brenna Yovanoff

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yavanoff

This isn’t the sort of book that I usually pick up, or at least, supernatural YA books don’t always appeal to me, but I was pleased to find that Paper Valentine is no mere YA book.
Read More »