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The Liars' Club

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  63,809 ratings  ·  3,219 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 1995)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  63,809 ratings  ·  3,219 reviews

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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 dif
Feb 07, 2008 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
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am confoundingly happy that poets can also be great novelists. (I read very little poetry, dedicating my time to prose almost exclusively.) Better yet, sometimes expert autobiographers.

Shares the same bookshelf with Jeanette Walls' also mighty impressive nonfiction autobio "The Glass Castle."
Aug 05, 2016 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
May 03, 2008 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
Sep 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Do you want an advice? Read this book in a period of peace of mind because the reading has a disruptive force to make you enter in a highly depressive grey vortex.
I am still not able to frame and analyze the impression that this reading has left me, surely Karr's writing is magnificent and the pages can be read without heaviness.
The characters are gloomy, almost evil, always imbued with a total and inexplicable inner violence., even the smallest actions of our daily life are emphasized by Karr w
Jan 19, 2011 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
Sep 10, 2007 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
Apr 26, 2010 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
Oct 02, 2010 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
Emily Green
Sep 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a challenging read at times, especially regarding sexual assault (if you are sensitive to that, be warned there are some very descriptive chapters regarding it).

It definitely reminded me a lot of The Glass Castle, Chanel Bonfire, and Educated. And I'm not sure if that's a pro or con because I loved those books but this felt a bit stale because I'd read that story a few times before. Karr's writing, however, is superb and as it went on I got much more invested in the story. The last c
Sheryl Sorrentino
Aug 08, 2014 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
May 22, 2009 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Donald Powell
A good book about the ravages of alcoholism/addiction and some about other forms of mental illness, especially as it relates to young children. My copy, bought new from Amazon, was marred by missing ink and had a small font. The diction and syntax were unusual, slowing my reading and causing some frustration. These matters are unique and endearing to many, often leading to the reputation of this book as humorous. Its sarcastic tone did evoke chuckles. This author's ability to make the reader fee ...more
What a book. Mary Karr is salty and funny and brilliant and fierce. Such a big, big voice. She even made the last section work--and I was skeptical about a time jump. Fuck the haters who call this just another "misery memoir." It's too funny to be truly miserable. There's a reason why people still read this memoir decades later. ...more
Sep 13, 2012 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. ...more
Jul 24, 2012 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
Sep 22, 2007 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
Ange H
Dec 18, 2017 marked it as did-not-finish
Did not finish.

I was 75 pages into this awful thing, and I have no clue why it was so highly praised. The author grew up poor, with difficult parents. I grew up poor with difficult parents, as did most of the kids I knew. It's really not that unusual. Or interesting. I believe that people who want to write a memoir should ask themselves the following questions:

a.) Am I wildly famous, whereby I have reason to suspect that people will want to read about every single thing I ever did, and every tho
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
"That's how God answered my prayers: I learned to make us all into cartoons."

There's something to be said about a memoir written by an actual writer. I know you know what I mean.

Karr's descriptions make you feel like you're in the story, like you knew her family. Her writing is raw, but lovely. I'm a fan.
Shannon Miller
Nov 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
On page 73 and yet it feels like I'm on page 1,000,073. I think it would take me another 3-years to finish this. *Throws in the towel* ...more
Dec 05, 2011 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 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
Mary Blye Kramer
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was my second reading of this book; the first reading was nearly 19 years ago. I wrote in the inside cover, as I always do, the date and what I thought about the book, both times. Excellent writer, captivating and heartbreaking memoir. This time through I went more slowly and picked up on Karr’s humor and vivid detail, especially since I’m simultaneously reading her book on writing memoirs and writing a third one myself. Karr’s writing and her story is mesmerizing and I love her voice.

Sep 12, 2016 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. ...more
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, biography
Part laugh out loud, part heartbreaking. I was a bit confused at the ending. I think I need to read Lit to see if I understood what happened. ...more
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Circle of Books: The Habits of Fathers 1 2 Nov 30, 2013 07:25PM  
Liars Club 1 31 Oct 17, 2012 03:07PM  

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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.

Karr was born January 16, 1955, in Groves, a small town in East Texas located in the Port Arthur region, known for its oil refineries and chemical plants, to J. P. and Charlie Marie (Mo

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