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3.90  ·  Rating details ·  26,731 ratings  ·  2,306 reviews
The New York Times bestseller, now available in paperback—Mary Karr’s sequel to the beloved and bestselling The Liars’ Club and Cherry “lassos you, hogties your emotions and won’t let you go” (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times).

Mary Karr’s bestselling, unforgettable sequel to her beloved memoirs The Liars’ Club and Cherry—and one of the most critically acclaimed books of th
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Harper
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Michelle I think any talk of a spiritual connection is more in regards to relying on a "higher power" which is essentially in trying to connect with something …moreI think any talk of a spiritual connection is more in regards to relying on a "higher power" which is essentially in trying to connect with something greater than yourself in order to stop drinking and stay sober - it is a common undertone in the second half of the book while she seeks sobriety and starts going to a 12 step program - it really has nothing to do with religion.(less)
Wendy Liu This answer comes 2 years later, but in case you're still looking for this, I think this is the passage:

"We loved each other this way, Daddy and I, fr…more
This answer comes 2 years later, but in case you're still looking for this, I think this is the passage:

"We loved each other this way, Daddy and I, from afar. We're like totem animals in each other's foreign cosmologies--like islanders whose ancestral gods favor each other."(less)

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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  26,731 ratings  ·  2,306 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Nov 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Like Ron Rash and Thomas Hardy, Mary Karr writes dense, image-rich language with a poet’s flair. This is not stuff you speed-read past. Slow down, take a sip from whatever you’re drinking. Maybe read that paragraph again. Make sure there are no visions left behind. The language is a major part of the great value here. The other is the content of the story.

Mary Karr - image from her site

Lit refers not only to Karr’s affection for the written word, but to her level of sobriety. Her memoir shows u
On its funniest and its most harrowing pages, Mary Karr's Lit reminds me of Augusten Burroughs's Dry; both sarcastic, heartbroken protagonists are helplessly addicted to alcohol, romantically incapacitated, and surrounded by saccharine morons. In moron-land, Karr escapes mental institution bureaucracy in time to attend a literary reception in her honor by using guile. The institute's Nurse Ratchett "has a tendency to bring up penis envy every session, and I swear that this time, when she does, I ...more
Dec 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Few writers can live up to the verve of a triple pun title: lit as in literature, lit as in intoxicated, and lit as in spiritual enlightenment, all three of which are seamlessly blended together in Karr’s characteristically wildly exuberant, utterly compelling, and shrewdly observant prose. She has a wonderful love of the epigram, which I admire greatly being a lover of epigrams myself. My favorite thusfar: “They are passing, posthaste, posthaste, the gliding years--to use a soul-rending Horatia ...more
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: can't - a for profit write
Who is Mary Karr? A memoirist—this is her third. She is now 57 years old. She is a professor of literature at Syracuse University. She is a published poet. She is a single mother. She is famous—given credit for the huge increase in the popularity of the memoir as reader fodder and consequently rich, presumably a 1%er. She is a “free-willing” Catholic and a practicing alcoholic in recovery. In other words – Believes strongly in the power of God & prayers, and sober and attends AA meetings. She is ...more
Julie Davis
Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Note - I read this for a book club. Not my choice. I do like memoirs, just not this sort.

Mary Karr/Lit fans are a fiercely loyal group. And super intolerant of anyone who doesn't love her sort of memoir. I get it. Oy veh. Can we all just move on? Not going to reiterate any more the above two points in my comments section.

Original comments/review below.


Reading this for my book club.


If there is a genre I hate, it is that of addicts telling their life stories ... yes, even when they co
Jen Knox
Oct 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Karr's hard-edged poetic voice made The Liars' Club one of my favorite books. In Lit, the voice is just as searing and lovely but perhaps not as consistent. The childhood digressions--nods to her previous works--were the weakest portions of the narrative, but they were brief; moreover, they were easily forgiven when bookmarking transcendent scenes such as one in which a group of illiterate women remind the author of the universality of good poetry. I highly recommend this book to all readers, bu ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye


This is the third (and, as at the time of this review, the last) of Mary Karr's sequence of memoirs.

"The Liars' Club" is still my favourite, although this volume comes close. While the former reveals much about Mary Karr's approach to writing, the latter is more didactic in tone, being focussed on the methods by which she recovered from her depression and alcoholism (via a half-baked Catholicism).

The "Lit" of the title has two meanings: one relates to being lit, or being
Jan 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
it's entirely impossible to give this book less than five stars because it's an obvious masterpiece of narrative, heart, and language. unlike other memoirists who put it all out there, though, mary karr doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel and come up with the miserable, putrescent dregs that caused her to be so miserable and, also, to drink (two different predicaments, though i suppose the latter cannot happen without the former). she talks many times, pretty much from beginning to end, abou ...more
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The experience of reading this book is one of being swept so effectively into someone else's experience that I have to give it a five. Pick it up, lie down on the couch, and if you've ever been an aspiring writer, a member of a psychotic family, a lover of poetry or even just an avid reader, you'll be as absorbed as ever you were in Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Jane Eyre. East Texas girl overcomes horrific childhood but has to kick her alcoholism to become best-selling memoirist is just a ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Why is it that everyone else is traffic?"

I listened to this on audio read flawlessly by the author. Something about it coming directly from her mouth, her Texas drawl still slightly present, really enveloped me. Her writing is raw. The descriptions, lovely. She is rough, bold, and smart. I like her.
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Warning, craft review! Karr employs or deploys a number of craft strategies and techniques that I examined in order to rip-off for my own writing. I whittled down the many to these few:
• Prologues as context, anchoring (and/ or launching?) points
for both writer and reader, and how the prologues determine
the economy of explanation throughout the book;
• Management of present- and past-self narrators, for story, for
suspense, and other effects;
• Cognitive entry points (the deft turns-of-phrase
Mar 07, 2010 rated it liked it
A big messy book with a lot of good things and a lot of annoying things. Karr overwrites with a vengeance, throwing 2 metaphors into one sentence when none would have been a lot better. There's a this-is-me-warts-and-all-stream-of-consciousness thing that she does that is apparently engaging for a lot of readers, but I tended to find her on the narcissistic side. Somewhere in this 400 page monster is a great 200 page memoir dying to shed some poundage.

What I did like about the book was her hones
Nov 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A writer's writer, Mary Karr's work will appeal to poets, fans of the literary scene, self-help first-person horror story aficionados, and lovers of words. Never was the map to hell so gloriously recounted as this one. And the way she nails the logic and rationalization of alcoholics is spot on. If you've ever talked your way into "just one more" and lived to regret it, you'll find some mirrors among these well written pages. What follows are some excerpts from the book:

Karr writes of her first
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
Okay - I know this author has won awards and I am supposed to have thought this book was wonderful, but I didn't. I swear I could hear her thumbing through the thesaurus to find words we do not use in normal conversation. Keep in mind she is a poet by trade, not a nonfiction writer, so the disjointed nature of her autobiography is to be somewhat expected. Yes, she did have a hard life as a child and her alcohol abuse made her less than a great mom but I had a hard time not telling to her to grow ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Mar 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Lit: A Memoir, Mary Karr's journey through alcohol, and alcoholism, takes the reader into her life; marriage, drinking, childbirth, drinking, teaching, drinking, writing, drinking, family, drinking, failed marriage, drinking, getting sober, drinking, really getting sober, not drinking, finding god, mother's death, and finally more god – was well written, entertaining, informative, and as always with Karr's writing – self centered and self depreciating – which I'm not complaining about, as she pu ...more
Aug 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
I read a lot of memoirs. There's something about peering into someone else's life that gives me a chance to pause and reflect on mine. Lit was no exception. It appears to be brutually honest, although it may not be since it's based on the recollections of an alcoholic. However, Karr does not paint herself to be a saint for having gotten herself into recovery or blame her past for her descent into alcoholism and depression. There were times as I read that I didn't want to read anymore. I wanted t ...more
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
A complete drag, I didn't realize there was MORE in Karr's life to warrant a third memoir. She somehow managed to make dating David Foster Wallace boring. ...more
Dec 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Suspect the world does not need another review of Mary Karr’s newest memoir, but I do have some scattered thoughts on it. I feel, however, that they must be prefaced by multiple caveats, which may be the scattered thoughts in disguise. Caveat one: I’ve not read any of her other books. Have seen occasional poems of hers in magazines. Caveat two: She studied with a poet I also studied with, who makes a couple of appearances in this book as she begins to ascend into the poetry firmament. Caveat thr ...more
Nov 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Shitfaced. As I read the early pages of Lit, I thought Shitfaced would make a better title. With characteristic candor, it’s the word Karr uses more often to describe her drunken state. But I was wrong. For some part of this, her third memoir, Shitfaced would have worked quite handily but eventually you come to realize this is more than a memoir about the journey from addiction to recovery and it becomes a story about faith and love. The deeper journey calls for the warmth and reach of lit, with ...more
Feb 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
i'm not sure what to say about this book. i LOVED the liar's club & was so excited to read cherry, the second in her memoir trilogy. & even though that book is about coming of age adolescent girlhood, the kind of thing i love to read, i found it depressing (even more than ! or in a less appealing way or something), & the writing was too "poetic" for my tastes. therefore, i procrastinated for ages before cracking this book, the third of the memoir trilogy, open. i knew it was about mary's experie ...more
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Mary Karr is a poet. This is a memoir. This is prose. But also poetry.

I have underlined and dog-eared a page in every chapter of this book. It's been essential to my well-being in the past month. Is it pretentious to say that? I'm saying it. This was a healing book to me. I read it at a time when I didn't know how much I needed it but I did and it delivered.

It's starts out Texan and funny, raw and melancholy (Mary Karr's early life is hilariously awful but actually quite tragic), then it delves
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A Tour de force. Hands down one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. Mary can write exceptionally well and she doesn’t hold back, with a wrenching honesty that kept me captivated the whole long listen. As I did the audiobook, I loved having her be the narrator and don’t think I would have listened if it was anyone else. I highly recommend if you like memoirs. I have already recommended this book to one of my friends where sobriety has been a big part of their journey, and I definitely think anyon ...more
Apr 23, 2015 marked it as skimmed
Shelves: memoir
This makes me want to drink in the daytime...and seems to be giving me permission.
Nov 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Mary Karr's third memoir "Lit" is her own personal VH1 Behind the Music-style story, picking up the tale around where "Cherry" ended and stumbling into the place where "The Liars Club" became something Karr could sign in bookstores for fans in a line that winds around the block.

First she has to shake the drink.

Early scenes find Karr perched on a back porch, a drink in one hand, a baby monitor in the other, simmering in a boozy stew of self-loathing. She didn't want to drink this much, or maybe
Amanda Van Parys
Always a good time with Mary Karr. She always finds a way to make the horrible things amusing.
I took a break from Lit when I was halfway finished. I didn't feel compelled to return to it, but I did. Karr is a sesquipedalian. I had to look that word up to describe my simultaneous attraction to and avoidance of her story. While many sentences were compelling, a few stuck, and many seemed to cave in upon themselves. I was left without details to retrieve from my long-term memory. Perhaps my brain is to blame. I gleaned the most when I was focused on the feeling behind the words rather than ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Mary Karr is about to get down on her knees to pray. She realizes that kneeling makes you the right size - small, needy, even pathetic. She’s been at this altar before - drunks call it “the throne”. And there have been many boozed-up nights and hungover mornings that she laid at its feet while emptying herself from the poisons of addiction. It doesn’t matter what form the poison takes - whiskey, beer, wine - its effects are always harrowing and exact.

"Lit" is the compelling memoir of Mary Karr’s
James Lang
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a gorgeous and profound book, innovative in word and structure, filled with insights about addiction, love, spirituality, life, etc. I gather that this is her third memoir, and the only little hitch I had with it was in the early stages, when she seemed to be glossing over stuff that felt important. I only realized later that this was ground she had covered in other memoirs. But her slow movement toward recovery and God are inspiring and beautiful, and the book grew in power for me as I ...more
A devastating memoir of trying to be a poet, keep a failing marriage together, and kick alcoholism. (Two of these things, Karr achieves. The marriage isn’t one.) A little too long given that it doesn’t really acquire a sense of propulsion until the second half, which is when Karr also finds Catholicism–but her writing about faith, particularly faith as an intellectual and inveterate doubter, is electric. One for fans of Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water.
Riva Sciuto
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bios-memoirs
Real and raw, 'Lit' reveals why Mary Karr is one of the preeminent memoirists of our time. Written as a letter to her son, Dev -- whose birth marks a distinct turning point in her life -- Karr's reflections are astonishingly refreshing. "Just as my mother vanished from my young life into a madhouse, so did I vanish when you were a toddler, having spent much of my life having to plumb her psychic mysteries," she writes to Dev.

In the pages that follow the book's stunning introduction, Mary Karr w
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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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