Elise Gennrich's Reviews > The Liars' Club

The Liars' Club by Mary Karr
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Feb 13, 2011

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Karr, Mary. “The Liar’s Club.”
New York: Penguin Books, 1995
Mary Karr’s writing contains a very witty, sarcastic tone to it throughout this poignant memoir. On some accounts, she delivers a humorous narrative about her early years, but a few times seems to fall a bit short on keeping the reader engaged and not confused.
Her writing style is completely her own, with excellent and vivid descriptions throughout the novel. It was always easy to visualize what Karr’s childhood was really like as she included many character descriptions and added some much needed dialogue. It was easy to feel something for all of the major characters in the novel, whether it be good or bad. Her grandmother was characterized in a most unique way that it seems impossible to ever release that image from my mind. Karr uses all of her senses to describe her surroundings, which is why this novel is so memorable. Her story is not one of a celebrity or well known television persona, but one of an average, tomboyish girl trying to find herself while having to cope with a severely dysfunctional family. At times, it was easy to sympathize with Karr’s upbringing tales, but at others, it was easy to feel as though she was merely bragging about herself. By no means was she an exceptional student, but her father influenced her to always stand up for herself, whether that meant biting a hole in someone’s shoulder or cussing at her teachers. These stories seemed almost overly emphasized.
It was hard to follow a few of the plot lines during the first five or so chapters. For instance, Karr said her mother wore Chanel suits and belts, yet it was a burden for them to spend a few dollars on a dress for Mary. It was impossible to figure out the economic status of this family. It was also hard to determine what age the author was throughout her reflections. An author should never leave a reader guessing about major plot lines such as these or else the reader will want to put the book down and do something else. This is where she falls short in leading the reader through her story.
As a reader, I learned not only about the obvious theme of this memoir (a hard childhood and how the author overcame it), but how to formulate your own voice in telling your tale. Any story can become interesting if you put yourself into it, and that is exactly what Mary Karr has done. This is her story, told by none other, and has her official stamp of personality woven throughout.
Overall, it was an interesting journey following Karr on this mostly well-written recollection about her childhood. It was interesting to read about such a dysfunctional family, and even more surprising that Karr herself turned out to be a success. It seems today the average American would turn out emotionally scarred for life and afraid to do many things if put into a situation such as this.

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