Barbara's Reviews > Lit

Lit by Mary Karr
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's review
Apr 03, 2010

really liked it
Read in March, 2010

Lit is the third in a series of memoirs by Mary Karr (The Liars' Club and Cherry preceded this one). I read this book because it was highly recommended by the NYT. They were right. I'll now have to head back and read the first two. Memoirs, especially about drug addiction and alcoholism, are not ordinarily my cup of tea. Karr's writing style, however, is warm, humorous, self-deprecating, sometimes brutally honest, and surprising. In the latter half of the book, Karr focuses more and more on her spiritual rebirth and, although I don't share her religion (Catholicism) or beliefs specific to that religion, I felt the description of her conversion was realistic, honest and insightful. I liked the fact that she made a space for other voices -- atheists, Protestants, and Buddhists -- in her narrative. Likewise, she treats the relationship between her blissfully dysfunctional mother and herself with great blunt honesty leavened with forgiveness. She is angry, rightfully so, about her wildly unstable childhood. Yet hers is not a bitter voice; the bad and the good commingle into a well-rounded, sometimes hilarious, story. The only disappointment I felt was with her description of her ex-husband who never emerges with any clarity. In this regard, she is too much the mother and not enough the writer, protecting her son against any too-harsh criticism and unable to expose some of the worst experiences of the marriage (she makes amply clear that her alcoholism played a major role in the breakup of the marriage). All in all, I would highly recommend this book.

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