Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I just finished reading The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr, and it is one of the most un-put-downable memoirs I have ever read. Karr grew up in the lower middle class of a depressing town in Texas. The story revolves around her family life as a very young girl - ages 6 to 9 or so. What first strikes you is Karr's voice. Tomboyish, able to hold a grudge, thirsty for love, stubborn as a mule, Karr unflinchingly admits her own foibles and those of others, but also cuts through the novel's events to the beating, loving heart of her family.

Her alcoholic/manic depressive mother is beautiful and educated in a town where neither attribute was common. Her father, a working man with a talent for bombast, dotes on both his children, but particularly on Karr, whom he dubs "Pokey." After her mother leaves her father, Karr and her sister choose to live with her mother, more out of a sense of feeling obligated to protect her from herself than anything else.

Eventually, the family finds its way back together again, and the story is satisfyingly whole. Though few doubt that at least some of a memoirist's work must be imagination (Who among us can remember such detail about their life as a 7-year-old?), Karr has a knack for taking down some of her more relatable thoughts and experiences. The people she writes about, their conversations, their weaknesses, have the ring of universality.

Worth reading, and one of the best examples of the genre I've come across in a while.

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