I’ve been wanting to read Mary Karr for awhile, now. She has been recommended to many a good number of times, for various reasons. Thankfully, none of those reasons are that Karr and I share a similar childhood. I grew up in the south, too, but that’s where the similarities end.
Where I had a good home, stable childhood, and two working parents, Karr and her sister Leica (Lisa), lived predominately with their alcoholic mother, while their father came and went (mostly because the girls chose to live with their mother to protect her from herself). These days, CPS would have been more involved, but back then, kids just figured out how to deal with dysfunctional parents. Their mother suffered from depression, fueled by alcohol. And their father, though hard working, just couldn’t deal with his wife and they divorced after some time. A few boyfriends and a step father later, Mary and her sister grow up, return home to their dad, to see what life is like on the other side.
And where this story isn’t necessarily unique in the memoir world (seems like every memoir starts with a terrible childhood, because happy childhoods aren’t worth writing about?) the writing was grand. A good memoir has the reader hearing the author’s voice in his/her head. I could easily hear Karr, even though her voice is nothing like what I imagined it to be (thanks, YouTube). The turns of phrase she uses are authentic and meaningful, rather than forced.
I look forward to reading her next two memoirs, Cherry and Lit, to see how she survived trying times with southern grace and dignity.