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Nola: A Memoir of Faith, Art, and Madness
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Nola: A Memoir of Faith, Art, and Madness

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  58 ratings  ·  10 reviews
The evidence at hand: an autobiography - complete with their mother's edits - written by his brilliant and disturbingly religious sister; a story featuring actual childhood events, but published as fiction; perjured court documents hidden in a drawer for decades. These are the clues Robin Hemley gathers when he sets out to reconstruct the life of his sister Nola, who died ...more
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published December 3rd 2005 by Graywolf Press (first published August 1st 1998)
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I would award this book five stars for the final few pages.

As the title states, the book is a memoir, and its subject is Nola: her tragic chemistry, and the crises that result, serve as the hub from which the story of an affected family emanates. The author, the younger brother of the poor mad girl, punctuates the memoir with episodic snapshots of remembered events, sometimes supported by the documents supplied by their mother, sometimes undercut by the author's doubt and self-doubt.

The jerky n
Virginia Baker
Nola reads like a scrapbook to me. The experience of reading this book was like taking a family photo album or a scrapbook off of the shelf and flipping through it as Robin Hemley sat beside me and gave me an honest narration of the accounts I was viewing. He opens up his life to the reader, allowing us to pry in, and I feel as though I’m searching through his diary, an intimate, delicate task. It seems as though Hemley went into this search for his sister’s story the way a detective goes out to ...more
Sep 07, 2012 H added it
Shelves: biography, memoir
I wonder if bereavement and guilt are inextricably linked, if in some way you haev betrayed the memory of the one bereaved simply by continuing on your own without them. (xxii, Prologue: Larceny)

I try not to feel guilty about any of this, any of these thefts. I've felt guilty in the past, but not now. In a way, I feel proud. I'm telling you "Look what I got away with." I cheated death. I escaped madness. I stole before I was stolen. I want you to know that this is what it's really about. This is
Sep 21, 2007 Claire added it
Recommends it for: those who'd like to know what not to do in memoir
Shelves: discontinued
Perhaps I didn't have the attention span for this, but I've since moved on to another memoir that's worlds more interesting and way better written. This was a ponderous look at the family of the author, but he mostly spent the first couple chapters (all I managed to slog through, life is too short) in uninteresting, self-conscious reflections about the unreliability of the memoir. He weaves together the written and recalled perspectives of his mother and his sister, and unfortunately feels the n ...more
This was the first memoir I've ever read, chosen in preparation for a class in non-fiction writing. I think what makes it successfully compelling as nonfiction was Hemley's choice to interweave the stories of all his family members--himself, his mother, his mother's first husband, and some of his brother, wife and children--into the story arc of his sister's descent into psychosis and death. Also, as a writer, it's interesting seeing into the similiarites and dissimilarities of other writers, as ...more
Allison Rockwell
Sometimes meandering, sometimes a little too self-aware (the genre, not the author or his character in the book). I liked the scrap-booky feel, the collection of documents, the willingness to own up to less-than-ideal human traits (lying, stealing, etc). The whole book isn't just about Nola, it's about Hemley's whole family. I actually found myself wanting to know more, to hear more about Nola than about Robin.

In the end, I found the penultimate chapter about Hemley's grad school girlfriend, Ri
It didn't grab me in the beginning, but definitely picked up steam, and I began to realize that this memoir, as is typical, says a lot about the author.
About memories of the author's family and schizophrenic sister, told through a journal she kept and other family members' memories of her and of growing up. It looked great but it was so boring and shapeless self indulgent that I gave up on it.
Interesting collage-format memoir of the author's schizophrenic sister. Shows the impact of a family member's mental illness on the entire family. I read this as part of my preparation for interviewing the author for upstreet.
Haunting and Brilliant.
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Robin Hemley has published seven books of nonfiction and fiction. His latest book, Invented Eden, The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday deals with a purported anthropological hoax in the Philippines. James Hamilton Paterson, writing in the London Review of Books, call Invented Eden, "brave and wholly convincing." John Leonard writes in Harpers, "Besides a terrific story, Invented Eden is a ...more
More about Robin Hemley...
Do-Over!: In Which a Forty-Eight-Year-Old Father of Three Returns to Kindergarten, Summer Camp, the Prom, and Other Embarrassments Turning Life into Fiction Extreme Fiction: Fabulists and Formalists A Field Guide for Immersion Writing: Memoir, Journalism, and Travel Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday

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