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The Liars' Club

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  45,329 Ratings  ·  2,138 Reviews
When it was published in 1995, Mary Karr's The Liars Club took the world by storm and raised the art of the memoir to an entirely new level, as well as bringing about a dramatic revival of the form. Karr's comic childhood in an east Texas oil town brings us characters as darkly hilarious as any of J. D. Salinger's—a hard-drinking daddy, a sister who can talk down the sheri ...more
Paperback, 10th anniversary ed., 320 pages
Published May 31st 2005 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1995)
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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
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 diff
Nov 02, 2013 Dorothea rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Feb 11, 2008 Heather rated it it was ok
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
Aug 05, 2016 Lilo rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of horror stories, fans of child porn, mental health professionals interested in case studies
Recommended to Lilo by: Stephen King
Warning! This review contains spoilers.

To start out with, I find the title somewhat misleading. The Liars’ Club is the author’s father and his drinking buddies. Yet this book is not only about this group of alcoholics. Thus, the title does not really cover the whole book. Yet this is the smallest beef I have with this book.

I SOLEMNLY SWEAR that I’ll try really hard to never ever read a bestseller again (unless it is a classic that has stood the test of time).

“The Liars Club” is a bestseller. Ste
Jan 11, 2017 Fabian rated it really liked it
Am confoundingly happy that poets can also be novelists. Better yet, expert autobiographers.

Shares the same bookshelf with Jeanette Walls' also-impressive "The Glass Castle."
Oct 30, 2009 Melody rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Story Tellers and Poodles

Mary Karr's father was a working class Texan who belonged to a group of ex-servicemen who hung out together at an American Legion poolroom and bar, drinking, shooting pool, playing cards and dominoes, and telling stories, some melancholy, some humorous, some real, some imagined, some tall, some short, hence the name given to them by one of their wives, "the Liars' Club".

Daddy achieved the rank of sergeant and declined a promotion as a result of his battlefield courage, b
Emily Green
Jan 16, 2011 Emily Green rated it liked it
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
Apr 26, 2010 Nicholas rated it liked it
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
Dec 30, 2012 Merry rated it did not like it
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
Jun 30, 2015 Reese rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-memoirs
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
After reading Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir, I decided to give her memoirs another try. Instead of starting with Lit, a book I had already abandoned, I decided to start with Cherry because it was 50 cents at a book sale. Just a few pages in it became clear that the author was continuing her story that she'd started in The Liars' Club, so I went back to the beginning.

I think well-written memoir pulls you in by finding common ground. Was I surprised to find common ground with a child of east-Texas
Sheryl Sorrentino
Sep 01, 2014 Sheryl Sorrentino rated it liked it
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
Nov 16, 2012 Cheryl rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
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
Jun 04, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 24, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 21, 2009 Angie rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 26, 2012 Ellen rated it really liked it
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
Dec 25, 2009 Linden rated it it was ok
This book has compelling images and moves along quickly. After reading about half of it, though, I realized that I was really irritated by the voice. She doesn't have much grace, and the wisdom she professes to have doesn't ring true. I started to feel very manipulated. She has plenty of painful memories, and she writes about them with a lot of sensory detail. But I didn't come away with a sense that she had made peace with her past, nor that she had a greater understanding of what life was all ...more
Mar 04, 2008 Oceana9 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 04, 2010 Mariel rated it liked it
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
Mar 24, 2008 Liz rated it liked it
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.
Jan 16, 2011 Richard rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 12, 2016 Bailey rated it it was amazing
An incredible book - a perfect story about the lives of imperfect people. If you have any interest in what small towns are really like, the absolute unvarnished truth, this is it. I can't believe how much I love this book.
Dec 13, 2015 Sara rated it liked it
I liked Karr's Texan twang and breezy story telling, even when it was so mismatched with the traumas she experienced. But what I felt was missing was some introspection from the viewpoint of the grownup Karr writing the story. I suppose her choice to narrate from the perspective of herself as a child was a way to help the reader get into her mind as she experienced it then - which she does by switching the story to a first person present tense. But I wanted to know what the Karr of today makes o ...more
Amy Neftzger
Apr 17, 2013 Amy Neftzger rated it really liked it
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
Oct 22, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it

Idly picked up and it just took me over...I'm actually about halfway through now and Karr is just hitting every note, some blue and some grace notes, but one gets the feeling she's on the solo of her life...

...and she didn't falter as the narrative went from bad to worse. I mean, it probably wasn't peaches and cream starting out in broke, dusty, barren nowheresville Texas and surrounded by sweat, bleakness and oil fields.

But you throw in some "low food stability" and some angry, drunken, fiery
Mar 26, 2014 mark rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 22, 2009 Ciara rated it it was amazing
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
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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 about Mary Karr...

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“A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.” 357 likes
“Sure the world breeds monsters, but kindness grows just as wild...” 93 likes
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