Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Liar's Club - Mary Karr

Mary Karr's memoir Lit received huge amounts of praise last year - and shot to the top of my to-read list. But, I discovered that she wrote this memoir back in 1995, so I thought I would check it out first. It was very reminiscent of The Glass Castle, given the main theme of surviving childhood with mental unstable parents. Reading this book was kind of like watching Citizen Kane for the first time in the year 2000. While I know that back in 1995, the memoir genre was not as well exploited (see Angela's Ashes), but now, it seems like everyone with checkered past has written about it. In some ways, it dilutes the impact of the trauma suffered and the importance of the chaos survived. Nevertheless, Karr's story is compelling and one worth learning from. Raised in East Texas, she is the child of a nearly psychotic mother and an abusive father. While she and her sister hang on for dear life, they are forced to grow up too quickly and subjected to abuses of all kind. Given the large number of memoirs out now that recount traumatic lives of neglect and abuse - I sometimes feel like the stories lose their impact and that readers are becoming numb to the horrific realities of the lives of the children depicted in these books. But perhaps it also educated more people on the fact that there are so many children living these lives and that we need to do more to ensure that they receive the protection they need. I did not find anything about Karr's book that made this one a stand-out in the genre, but for those interested in trauma, poverty, and mental illness, it is worth checking out.

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