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The Liars' Club

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  34,958 ratings  ·  1,606 reviews
In this funny, razor-edged memoir, Mary Karr, a prize-winning poet and critic, looks back at her upbringing in a swampy East Texas refinery town with a volatile, defiantly loving family. She recalls her painter mother, seven times married, whose outlaw spirit could tip into psychosis; a fist-swinging father who spun tales with his cronies--dubbed the Liars' Club; and a nei...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published 1995 by Picador
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Posted at Shelf Inflicted

After reading Will's intriguing review of Lit: A Memoir, I decided it was time to explore Mary Karr’s work, so I went to the library and borrowed The Liars' Club. Written in 1995, this memoir explores the author’s dysfunctional childhood in sweltering and swampy Leechfield, Texas.

Though Mary Karr and I did not have similar childhoods, there were definitely certain life situations and reactions to them that I could relate to and I came to realize that no matter how diffe...more
The Liars' Club is Mary Karr's memoir of her childhood growing up in a small, east Texas oil town, and was first published in 1995. The thought of how this woman's writing has managed to escape me until two weeks ago is unnerving. I blame all of you, actually, for not telling me about her sooner. Jesus and the angels will help me recover from this most bitter betrayal.

From the first page of this book I was sucked in. I had to sleep with it next to my head on my pillow and carry it around with me...more
Feb 11, 2008 Heather rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Memoir fans
Shelves: memoir
Much praise has been written about Mary Karr's uniqe poetic voice. But, honestly? I found very little that was "special" about Mary Karr. Her writing style seems jarring; she has no problem jumping around in time in the middle of a paragraph. I also found it difficult to be compelled with her story. It was a story about growing up poor in a industrial town in Texas. I bet 30 other kids from that same town could have written a very similar book. Her prose was bland and it was evident that she did...more
Bryan Furuness
I don't write a lot of customer reviews. And when I finished this book, I didn't think it needed my review. For one thing, I'm probably the last person in the hemisphere to read it; for another, this book is so good and has been popular for so long that its ratings must be sky high, right?

At the time that I'm writing this review, the Goodreads rating is 3.88.

Over 2000 people gave it one or two stars.

People, for real. What are you looking for in a book? Karr has given you a gem, a freaking gem...more
Re-read. I stand by the five star rating. Karr's voice is pure, poetic and real. Though my childhood was nothing like hers, the bits which I identify with stir up an amazing welter of emotions and ghosts for me. I fall overboard into this memoir and can smell the East Texas refinery town just like I'd grown up there. Karr's description of her mother's Nervousness is priceless and heartwrenching. The whole book is beautifully written, so much so that one hardly realizes how deeply dysfunctional t...more
Emily Green
I had heard a great deal about Mary Karr's _The Liars' Club_ before I read it. _The Liars' Club_ is considered one of the groundbreaking books in the current memoir movement, and there is much for a writer to learn from it, both things to steal and things to avoid.

To steal, of course, are the humor and honesty. One of my favorite moments occurs when Karr explains that she and her sister misheard the phrase "It ain't the heat, it's the humidity" for years, believing people said, "It ain't the hea...more
NOTE: THE LIARS'CLUB four-star rating does not mean that I "really liked it."

I usually love memoirs. (Well, not ones written by narcissists or liars.) If I were young enough to have read Mary Karr's THE LIARS' CLUB (1995) when I was in my early twenties, I might well have appreciated it to the extent that the work deserves. Alas, another if. Unfortunately, I've grown old, old enough to "wear my trousers rolled" (T.S. Eliot). And in the past year, this old person has read too much material (ficti...more
Dec 30, 2012 Merry rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Merry by: BCBC book club for January
The tragic life of two sisters, as told by the younger sister, in a small East Texas. Total dysfunction and quite sad. The author writes of every bad detail with no good news between the lines. The final chapters will bring some explanation for their terrible upbringing. The reviews on the back of this book claim it to be "wickedly funny", "astonishing, moving memoir", "howling misery and howling laughter, with the reader veering towards howling laughter", and, "a crazy family tormented by unsp...more
I fully anticipated that I would love this book. Almost everyone else has. And has then gone on to love her two subsequent memoirs. But, I have to say, I probably found the 10th Anniversary Foreword and the last chapter (when the reader finds out, at least in part, why her mother is so insane) the most compelling. The rest of it I just couldn't get into.

It's not that nothing happens -- because plenty does -- but at times I felt like SO MUCH happened that the reader wasn't given any clue as to w...more
A woman covers up a secret younger life when she marries (or remarries) and has two children. Yet the trauma of that life follows her. The result is this memoir from one of her daughters whose Texas and Colorado childhood is laced with remnants of her mother's former life and other self--because her mother seems to be two people. You know, the choices-of-the-mother-affects-the-daughter thing. This is a young girl's story of living with parents who suffer from mental illness and alcoholism. I wou...more
This memoir covers Mary Karr's childhood years to about her teens (with some later teen/early 20s at the end). I've read her other books and not been as impressed, but "The Liar's Club" is great writing about growing up in a strange family in an East Texas oil town, in the 60s/70s. Her dad is an oil field worker who is a great, loving father, but with a drinking problem, violent streaks, and her mother is an artist with clear mental health problems who doesn't fit in a little town in East Texas....more
The first sentence in Stephen King's "On Writing" praises Mary Karr's "The Liars Club" as an example of excellent writing. So I thought: recommendation from a good source. It is a painful coming-of-age autobiographical narrative written from the adult author's point of view. Impossible as it may seem, it is told with look-back wisdom, love, and hard humor. Karr is an excellent writer. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and wholeheartedly recommend it.
Sheryl Sorrentino
Like many of the low-star reviewers, I really wanted to love this book because it was recommended to me by a friend and colleague. But it did not hold my interest and I found myself not especially wanting to return to it. I kept at it, though, because I expected it to improve and wanted to have the complete picture before rendering judgment. In the end, for me it fell flat.

The writing, while sometimes clever and often humorous, utterly lacked any richness of emotion. I think that is why I could...more
This is the first of three memoirs that make up her life in the small refinery town of Leechfield (nee Groves) Texas. "The Liar's Club" is a reference to Karr's father a bigger than life character who spent his adult life working for Gulf or some other refinery in this backwater east Texas town (best known as the place where Agent Orange was produced). The books name derives from her father's penchant for drinking and telling famously big tales to his friends Cooter et al who relish his role as...more
Mar 24, 2008 Liz rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone - there's a time in everyone's life when it's useful, I'm sure
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
So that's how you end a memoir. Case closed.

I can't imagine the restraint and discipline required to write this book. Karr doesn't really tell you a damn thing. She lets the questions accrue, and you go along for the ride as they spool. There are so many questions (Wait, what the?) that you forget about half of them. And she never mentions any of them explicitly anyway, as in "I always wondered about..." Nope. She doesn't really explain. You're just in this fog of incident and chronology, the sh...more
Mar 04, 2008 Oceana9 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Memoir buffs
A book from the "memoir craze," but really compelling in its starkness, and spare, truthful writing. A glimpse into what it's like to grow up in a sickening, ugly East Texas town (actually called Leechfield) with a crazy, alcoholic mother and an oil-drillin' father. Not schmaltzy or self-pitying for one second. My favorite scene is where the mother decides she doesn't want to be a "fucking hausfrau" anymore and proceeds to paint all the mirrors in the house with lipstick, cover her own face with...more
This was pretty good. Not as good as The Glass Castle, but that was incredible. A lot of critics call Mary Karr's voice "poetic". Hmmm. Maybe, I guess. But to me, "poetic" is not a good thing. I do NOT want a lot of flowery language and metaphors and similies and all that. I just want the scoop told in a likable voice that resonnates (Jeannette Wall, props to that). But I didn't think the "poetic"-ness was too bad. When the whole story finally plays out, it's really heartbreaking. I was literall...more
Oct 04, 2010 Mariel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mommy dearests
Recommended to Mariel by: my ex
I read The Liar's Club when I was lonely and alone during a time I wasn't (in theory) supposed to be that way. Was it good company? Not really. I took away more than anything else from this book the feeling of trying to force acceptance of something that is unacceptable. I mean as a work of writing, as I really can't speak for Karr's heart and soul to what she feels and believes always (changing one's mind does happen, or so I'm told).

There's a good way to write a memoir about super fucked up ti...more
Mar 26, 2014 mark rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, psych persons, girls, parents
The Liar’s Club is an important book and it speaks to me in several ways. 1) Mary Karr, the author, and I are, both of us, teachers, readers, practitioners and aficionados of the craft of writing; and so as such I say with confidence: This is a well-written book. Mary Karr can flat out write and also tell a story well, a derivative of her childhood (which this is the story of) when she used to observe her father, Daddy, sitting amongst friends and telling stories, aka lies, while he played cards...more
I don't often read memoirs, and not surprisingly even a well-written one like this didn't do a whole lot for me. One thing I did really like about it were all the times that Karr pointed out the gaps in her memory--the principal whose suit she could remember but whose face she remembered no particular detail about, the portions of a stressful evening that are lost to her. It was a nice way to pull back from a fiction that the memoirist can remember everything and to implicitly raise the question...more
Amy Neftzger
I think we all go through hell at one time or another, but Mary Karr's memoir of going through hell as a child of an alcoholic mother is a poignant book about how we deal with those personal hells and survive. The book tells a story of how even when we're loved, we're sometimes lied to ... but we can survive. The prose is often beautiful to the point of poetic, but the content is still real and gut wrenching. The book shows how truth and lies can be both brutal and comforting in the right places...more
Jul 16, 2010 smetchie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to smetchie by: Angela
I don't get the fascination with memoirs, as a general rule. So I don't think it's really fair for me to review this book. I'll just say that I appreciated parts of it. For one, the intensely detailed descriptions of her grandmothers leg-rot, subsequent amputation, resulting stump and prosthetic-leg-with-the-little-black-shoe. I do get the fascination with severed appendages, as a general rule.

Another "poor me" childhood memoir. While I sympathize and am aghast at much of what happened to Mary Karr during this book, I just didn't feel the pull of emotion or empathy you would expect to come from a book like this.

Jeanette Walls' the Glass Castle - a similar story of a young girl's growing up in rural Appalachia was better written and more engaging than this book
So as I was driving home from a nonfiction writing conference, I listen to this audiobook. I've read several memoirs, many of which would be considered some of the best written in the last 20 years. But I haven't read any of Karr's. I do have a paperback copy of Lit that I've been intending to read but haven't gotten to it yet. So fueled by the mention of her name yet one more time, I found this abridged version on Audible. It was four hours long and my drive home was five. Perfect. And it was e...more
Amy Wilder
Jul 19, 2010 Amy Wilder is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read Mary Karr after hearing so much about Lit. So I decided I would start by reading Liar's Club, since it was her first. It took me like four book stores to find it, and it's not available on Kindle - why did you make it so difficult for me to find this? Lit was everywhere I looked...this was almost buried.

Update: Anyone who has ever tried to chronicle even one episode from their childhood should be able to appreciate the skill with which Mary Karr weaves together the clear images...more
Diann Blakely
The proliferation of memoirs has already appeared on various literary pundits’ “Ten Worst Things About the Nineties” lists. Some argue that the form’s renewed popularity proves how pandemic contemporary America’s “culture of narcissism,” to use Christopher Lasch’s phrase, has become. Others point accusingly at a population of readers—and writers—who’ve grown too dimwitted or lazy to bother with fictional constructs like character development, plot, and complex points of view.

Certain works have s...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 22, 2009 Ciara rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people from oil towns, people dealing with fucked up families, aspiring memoirists
stephen king raves about this book in his book about writing, on writing. i loved on writing & think stephen king is an awesomely underrated craftsperson when it comes to writing, so i eventually got my act together & checked this book out of the library. kind of astonishing that it took me like six years to do it! i read the whole thing in two days. it really is amazing! it's a memoir of mary karr's early years, growing up with a mental unstable mother & an oil worker father who att...more
I’m not a big fan of memoirs, but this is one of those genre defying books that I’m so glad I read. The Liar’s Club is the true story of Mary Karr’s childhood. From a small dusty town in Texas to a mountain home in Colorado, Karr and her sister grow up with their rough father and glamorous mother; both of whom are usually too focused on their own lives to bother with their children much of the time.

Some of Karr’s descriptions are so visceral. I felt like I could smell her grandmother’s bad brea...more
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Mary Karr is an American poet, essayist and memoirist. She rose to fame in 1995 with the publication of her bestselling memoir The Liars' Club. She is the Peck Professor of English Literature at Syracuse University.
The Liars' Club, published in 1995, was a New York Times bestseller for over a year, and was named one of the year's best books. It delves vividly and often humorously into her deeply t...more
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“A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.” 288 likes
“Sure the world breeds monsters, but kindness grows just as wild...” 60 likes
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