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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  744 ratings  ·  101 reviews
In the tradition of The Glass Castle and With or Without You, a bracingly funny and chilling true crime memoir about a girl's gutsy journey to escape her charismatic yet cruel father's reign - an unforgettable story of violence, love, and, ultimately, triumph.

It's the 1960s in Manchester, New Hampshire, and little Gloria Norris is growing up in the projects. Her parents ar
Hardcover, 355 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Regan Arts. (first published June 9th 2015)
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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  744 ratings  ·  101 reviews

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Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
We heard Jimmy's car pulling up to the curb --- the worst sound in the world.

Young Gloria grew up with a tyrant of a father, who ruled his family with the proverbial iron fist. His wife and two daughter's walked on eggshells to avoid incurring the wrath of Jimmy. Thanks to her dad, Gloria and her increasingly rebellious older sister, Virginia, lived surrounded by stolen merchandise, bookies and loan sharks. He forced the girls to sit through violent horror films, scared them with tales of the Bo
Jessica Gilcreast
Jul 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Norris possesses a fluid conversational writing style that enables the reader to feel connected to the characters in Kookooland. She brings you into her family in the 1960's Manchester, New Hampshire where she struggles against the odds to survive her upbringing. This memoir is honest and true. One of my favorite books has always been A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), every time I finish that book I'm always sad that it's over. I don't want to stop spending time with Francie and her family ...more
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
KOOKOOLAND is a memoir that reads like a novel--of a young woman's experience growing up with a father who today would be called a textbook psychopath, but 40 years ago was just called charming, crafty and temperamental.

This is one that will stick with you, even though some passages are difficult to read, such as the gasp-inducing insults and threats the father piles on his wife and young daughters. He is also, unsurprisingly, mean to animals--or at least those animals who aren't making him mon
Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley-books
I received my copy for free in exchange for a honest review through NetGalley.

This book was a bit difficult for me.
Because it is a memoir and I always fell wrong say that I didn't like or enjoy parts of memoirs, because that was their life and they are sharing it so say that I did not really enjoy this book is kind of hard for me. But this story just did not work for me, at all, sadly.

And not because of the story plot -alcoholic violent father, difficult childhood, and just overall extremely con
Lolly K Dandeneau
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The language in this book made me feel like I was living with Gloria trapped in her dysfunctional family at the mercy of her 'wiseguy' daddy Jimmy. Gloria has picked up more than just some of his personality traits but his language as well, not often knowing better. In fact, some of his racists remarks confuse the young girl. Never sure of the when the storm in her father will rage, like when he loses at the race track, her sister, mother and her are always on guard. The people Jimmy has around ...more
Carrie Phelps
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I sincerely LOVED this book, it was sad and wonderful all that the same time. Because this book took place in my own backyard (I live in Concord, NH!!) I felt an immediate connection. Very good read.
Karen Germain
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Thank You to Regan Arts for providing me with an advanced copy of Gloria Norris' memoir, Kookooland, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT- In her memoir, Kookooland, Gloria Norris details her childhood growing up in New Hampshire in the 1960's. Norris lives in the projects with her parents and her older sister, Virginia. Norris' father, Jimmy, is mentally unstable and the family is ruled by his whims. He can be charming and always has a scheme to support his gambling addiction, but he can also
Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent and fascinating account of a crime close to the author. Her abusive father, Jimmy, is good friends with Hank, father of Susan, who Gloria adores and vice versa. Susan is pretty. Susan is intelligent. Susan is going to be a doctor. But everything changes when Hank murders Susan's mother (his ex-wife) and boyfriend. Ms. Norris is a screenwriter so perhaps that aids in presenting this story in such vivid detail. There is a wonderful juxtaposition of the violence of the crime and its do ...more
Laurie Evans
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a book. I picked it up because the story was based in New Hampshire. I loved the NH slang and terms, I grew up hearing some of the same phrases.

Gloria Norris tells a tale so vivid, it's like watching a movie. A great read if you love memoirs about people overcoming a really rough childhood.
Tricia Bilodeau
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Because this book is based in my home town, I think it was all the more poignant. I could literally picture the sights and sounds that she experienced since a lot of the landmarks are still here. I highly recommend it, and not just to my friends who live here in the Queen City. It also makes me want to read more about the main characters and the actual court cases.
Rhonda Lomazow
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A raw honest book .Gloria brings us in to her life as a child a life of terror a life she needs to escape.A memoir I could not put down.
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was very engaging and pulls you along to find out what happens next, you root for Gloria the whole way, indeed you root for all the characters. I read the book in just a few days. The resilience of a child came through clear in the beginning, well, through the whole book really, but especially her earlier years, willing to justify her father's actions to avoid repercussions and still in the "daddy is my hero" time period. Humorous and sobering at the same time. And in his defense, her ...more
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
KooKooLand was a harrowing, poignant book about growing up poor in Manchester, NH in a family where words were weapons and fists were used to demand absolute obedience. This book is about being terrorized by a racist, small-minded father who drinks, lies, steals and bullies his way through life right up until his death. It is about being unprotected by a beaten-down mother and it is about the captivating spell he cast on his youngest daughter who became tough and compliant to earn her father's f ...more
Dana Clinton
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
One nice side effect of having two snow days called this week is that I have had plenty of time to finish Gloria Norris' autobiography Kookooland, which is being discussed next Monday night at the Music Hall book group. What a read. Ouf! I was actually uncomfortable reading many passages in this book as it brought back too many memories from my past, but my life was a picnic compared to hers. Gloria Norris has become a script writer and worked with many famous people (Woody Allen, for example), ...more
Dec 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads, netgalley
I got a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I would give 2 stars for the first half of the book and 4 for the second half. I was drawn to this book for its similarities to Glass Castle, which was a book I loved. At first, I was comparing it to Glass Castle and not as impressed with it. I thought Kookooland started a little slow, and that the first half was like a collection of short, unconnected stories with the same characters. The language took some getting u
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Kookooland is a memoir, written from a firsthand perspective of a young girl named Gloria. She lives with her mother, father and sister in the projects of Manchester, New Jersey. Her father Jimmy, is extremely cruel and controlling. Gloria's mother Shirley is kind and loving but is unable to stand up to her husband. Her daughter tries to go along to get along, in particular with her father so that he doesn’t become abusive. Jimmy loves horse races, swindling people and getting one over on the p ...more
Erinn Hill
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
*I received a free copy of Kookooland through the Goodreads giveaways program.*


This narrative is one of the most intense and brutally honest books I have ever read. Her use of language is gripping, and it often lead me to have visceral gut reactions to a lot of the scenes throughout. The memoir centers around the author's formative years which were filled with chaos and violence, but it also examines another woman's experiences with her own violent father. As the narrative progresses, the tw
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
How did Gloria Norris come out whole while being raised by the tyrant she portrays? Her father (she calls her parents Shirley and Jimmy throughout, which is a device that works perfectly here) is of the Pat Conroy type--the constant references to the perfect way is the military way and his growth apparently stopped at that point. Among many other things he called her Dracula because of her teeth and dumdum that rest of the time. As the story moves on we always expect that any good won't continue ...more
Suzanne Jenkins
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read "Kookooland " several months ago and  thoroughly enjoyed it.  A few weeks later , I happened to meet the author, Gloria Norris at a book signing and thanked her for the "ride along" .--and her willingness to share both the hysterically funny and occasionally  tragic events of her life with such candor and grace.  

I mentioned that we would be reading and discussing Kookooland at our upcoming book club and Gloria offered to come up from LA to facilitate the discussion !

What an incredible ev
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
An outstanding memoir. It is of no surpirse that the author, Gloria Norris, grew up to become a screenwriter. Her telling of her childhood in the projects of Manchester, NH is poignant, visual and visceral. Jimmy, her Greek father, is a bully - attacking with words and his fists. He lives to play the horses, deal in black market goods and drugs. He takes Gloria everywhere with him - exposing the 9 year old to a world of violence. Norris's voice and vocabulary change throughout the memoir as her ...more
Noelle Bassi
Jun 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting read, dark but there were times I laughed out loud. Gloria's father is depicted as horribly mentally abusive, his family never knew what to expect from him and he was constantly twisting around things that were done and said. Always putting them down. There was never any mention of physical or sexual abuse from the author, and her dad did go to bat for her in some instances. In the end, she did love her father, but hated him at the same time. The other story in the book is about this ...more
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
In some ways it's hard to believe that this is a memoir and not a novel, because the characters and the plot seem so over the top. However, this is a true story of growing up within a family that is just barely getting by. The family is headed by Jimmy whose "occupation" is betting on horses, selling stolen merchandise and other less than legal scams. His wife is Shirley who married Jimmy just to get out of the country and from Canada to the U.S. The honeymoon with Jimmy doesn't last very long a ...more
Thank you Net Galley for giving me a free copy of this book for review.

I was attracted to the title of this book because I've often felt that I spent my childhood in Kookooland. I guess I'm right about that since Kookooland is what the author's colorful father called California, which is where I grew up. Gloria's father was such a loud character with a voice and way of speaking so unfamiliar to me that I had trouble getting through the first portion of the book. After I got used to the author's
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads contest.

I really enjoyed this memoir. I loved that it was written in the language style the author used as a child. I loved how frank she was about her life and the people in it. I liked the dark humor and the tiny bit of love (a very tiny bit) that she shows she had for her father, a horribly abusive man, when she was growing up. That intense hate but need to please because he was her dad situation she is completely truthful about. It did not make her
Jaimie Hall
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I probably would not have read this book but it was on a list of the two best books for each state. This memoir was the best nonfiction book for New Hampshire. I'm glad I did. What a read!

Set in Manchester, NH when Gloria is nine, we get an intimate picture of her family life. The internal voice in her head - goddamn this, goddamn that, the put-downs- is a replica of her horrible, vicious father, but Gloria is a survivor. She survives an unbelievable childhood. The book's description will give y
Nancy Rosen
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful gift of storytelling and character development. Thirty years ago,this book wouldn't have meant so much to me, but now that I reside in New Hampshire--have worked in Manchester for 22+ years, it has a lot more meaning. Gloria Norris is an amazing success story--fortunately her stubbornness worked in her favor. Amazing how her mind captured her childhood and adolescent years frame by frame. I grew up in NYC--and some of the characters she presented sounded familiar. I don't want to menti ...more
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Darkly funny & completely engrossing, Norris's recollections of her childhood & the dark thruline of the Piasecny family is are hard to put down, but also hard to get through sometimes. Her father Jimmy is complex--abusive and violent, but also often hilarious & encouraging, and a huge influence (for better or for worse) on Gloria. Will be thinking about this one for awhile.
Judy Pancoast
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
I will never forget Gloria’s story. I felt like I was living it with her. I picked up this book because it takes place in Manchester, NH, where I live. I stayed with it because the story was riveting and so well told. I highly recommend
Dec 01, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Bombastic and vulgar. The narrator is a nine-year-old girl who tries too hard to use words like "frickin," "lardass," "nowheresville," and phrases like "sometimes life was like that. Sometimes it just sucker punched you." The narrator's father is a classic sexist redneck know-nothing who treats his family like dirt. I couldn't find a sympathetic character in the book. The writing was terrible, and some of the scenes were just plain offensive. The narrator is a faux-innocent girl who overhears a ...more
Jackie Wolfred
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Kookooland", a memoir written by Gloria Norris about her life growing up in New Hampshire in the 50's & 60's, with her parents and half-sister. The conditions were bleak, her upbringing far from conventional, in an atmosphere of control, verbal abuse, illegal activities, and a confused sense of right and wrong.
It took me awhile to 'get into' the story, as the only thing I could identify with was growing up in the same era. Even though it was hard to read at times, it held my interest, knowi
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