In "Loose Girl", Kerry Cohen has written a memoir of startling clarity and unblinking honesty. So often, memoir has proven to be a vehicle for proselyIn "Loose Girl", Kerry Cohen has written a memoir of startling clarity and unblinking honesty. So often, memoir has proven to be a vehicle for proselytization or even vindication, but Cohen resists the temptation to assign blame or explain away the personal impulses that drove her to reckless behaviors and a pattern of promiscuity and heartbreak. Instead she is straightforward and clear, exploring her own weaknesses and her dysfunctional quest for love and intimacy through unrewarding physical relationships.
Cohen's writing style is engaging and intimate. She writes about her sexual encounters with a real sense of presence, and when she falls into familiar patterns of behavior, the reader shares her stumbles with genuine pain. Parts of "Loose Girl" can be difficult to read, in the very best ways that a memoir can challenge a reader, and Cohen doesn't sugarcoat her experiences or attempt to explain away her behaviors.
In her memoir, Kerry Cohen displays an addictive personality, but she also possesses keen self-awareness and a burning (and often heartbreaking) commitment to change. "This time will be different," she seems to say, over and over, and it is on the strength of her writing that we hope right along with her every time. The pain that she feels when old patterns reassert themselves becomes visceral.
The book ends not with false epiphany or some kind of phony life change, but rather with a quiet sense of hopefulness and the feeling, perhaps no more than a whispered and fragile promise, that even the most broken of us can find happiness and perhaps even a measure of peace. "Loose Girl" is ultimately a story of quiet personal redemption, and I recommend it without reservation....more
I wanted to like this book, and by and large I did. I think this novel tries to be equal parts homage, parody and social commentary, and it's in thatI wanted to like this book, and by and large I did. I think this novel tries to be equal parts homage, parody and social commentary, and it's in that last capacity that it stumbles. This miscalculation weakens what is otherwise a very entertaining and original sendup of the monster movie genre....more
In HER LAST DEATH, Susanna Sonnenberg achieves what I believe the very best memoirs can accomplish. She paints a vivid, living picture, not just of aIn HER LAST DEATH, Susanna Sonnenberg achieves what I believe the very best memoirs can accomplish. She paints a vivid, living picture, not just of a life but of her relationship with her manic but unbalanced mother, and she does so with prejudice and personal perspective. Memoir is not autobiography; at its very best, the genre tells us not the facts and objective observation of the events. Memoir takes us into the heart of the author's experience, and it is its very subjectivity that gives it power. HER LAST DEATH brings the reader into Sonnenberg's internal world, a tumultuous place where both a mother's love and her sanity are always in question.
Sonnenberg doesn't flinch from the light when it comes to examining her own stumbles and weaknesses, and when an understanding of her troubled mother's psyche eludes her, as it often does, the author doesn't engage in conjecture or armchair psychoanalysis. Instead, she allows us to experience this inexplicable world with her, and in the end, we are left not so much with a sense of who her mysterious mother might have been, but rather whom the author has ultimately become.
In the course of facing a difficult past and its ramifications for her future, Susanna Sonnenberg has shown herself to be an extremely talented writer, and I eagerly await more from her....more
While I have to agree with some other reviewers who found Reston's account of his daughter's struggle against some pretty awful circumstances to be cuWhile I have to agree with some other reviewers who found Reston's account of his daughter's struggle against some pretty awful circumstances to be curiously bloodless at times, it is nevertheless a powerful story, well-told, of a family's fight for their beloved little girl. Reston's struggle against a sometimes incompetent medical world was particularly vivid to me, particularly in how, at every turn, his family was faced with unwavering "expert" diagnostic conclusions, many of which were ultimately wrong and occasionally to the extreme detriment of his daughter. This is quite simply a very important book, and one that I'm glad I finally got around to reading.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I read this book specifically because I was curious as to how Reston's narrative would compare to my own in my book, published about two years later. As a result, I suspect that came into this book predisposed to like it.)...more