Memoirs on Adversity discussion

What book put you through the largest emotional roller coaster? Chime in!

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message 1: by Kendra (last edited Feb 16, 2010 02:55PM) (new)

Kendra Bean (kendrae) | 6 comments Mod
"Jesus Land" was mine. There was such uncomfortable contradiction. I had to stop reading it at times, but I have to say that it opened my eyes a LOT!

message 2: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Ellis | 3 comments Hi Kendra, I just have to share with everyone that if you are looking for an emotional roller coaster through your book read, this one is it!
I know what I feel, as a girl. But my baromiter is my husband who in life is a totally flat line of emotions and one cannot tell what he is feeling.
Yet he is telling everyone he meets that this book is one that had him all over the emotional map, from disgusted, to angry, to sad, to glad, to crying to laughing to being totally shocked and more.

"SEEING THE LIBERTY, The Journey Of Eve's Daughter" by Sharon Roni Ellis is available to order now at Barnes & Noble, Hastings, Lifeway, etc.
I know that you will enjoy this read, and I do hope so much that you will allow yourself to experience the blessing that it is.
Peace, Sharon


message 3: by Leslie (new)

Leslie (twinrox) i've been reading almost nothing but memoirs for three years now, and i haven't found one yet that didn't put me on an emotional roller coaster. the most emotionally shocking ones, though: "Undress me in the temple of heaven", "Shutterbabe: Adventures in love and war", "The only girl in the car". anyway, it's a very interesting question you pose. i hope more people respond.

message 4: by Tom (new)

Tom Roberts (robertte) Drinking: A Love Story.

message 5: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Hultman Tom wrote: "Drinking: A Love Story."

Tom, I read Drinking: A Love Story about 14 years ago, I believe when it had just been published. Loved it - "sins of the father..." Have you read "Lit" by Mary Karr? Amazing - "Liars Club" was about what her parent's addiction did to her and fifteen years later (2010) "Lit" is about what it did to her child.

message 6: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Hultman "Night" by Elie Wiesel. Have taught it for almost twenty years, but am still moved by his ability to preserve his own humanity then revisit it with this memoir.

message 7: by Tom (new)

Tom Roberts (robertte) Catherine wrote: "Tom wrote: "Drinking: A Love Story."

Tom, I read Drinking: A Love Story about 14 years ago, I believe when it had just been published. Loved it - "sins of the father..." Have you read "Lit" by M..."


Yes, I read "Lit" and enjoyed, well, that's not the right word, but you know what I mean. "Liar's Club" ranks at the top for me. I know I listed "Drinking: A Love Story" at the top, but I'm changing that. "The Liar's Club was my first in the genre of dysfunctional memoirs and I found it very moving. I wanted to hug and comfort Mary. And, Karr is a superb writer. I attended a reading of "Lit" by her in Denver a few months ago. I had so much wanted to see and hear her in person that I jumped at the chance. I came away a bit disappointed. She came off as somewhat of an academic snob, which surprised me. I dislike that attitude perhaps because I'm an academic too and have to live with it at my university. Tom

message 8: by Catherine (last edited May 01, 2010 08:32PM) (new)

Catherine Hultman I am also an educator - high school AP English teacher. After reading Karr's complete trilogy, I can imagine her feigning disdain for the academic world because she still feels inferior...Have you read Susan Cheever's memoir of addiction or James Dickey's son's memoir of his father's addiction? Or "Searching for Mercy Street" by Anne Sexton's daughter - her memoir of Sexton's descent into addiction and madness? I am fascinated by the artist and addiction/mental illness. Have you got any recommendations?

message 9: by Leo (new)

Leo Averbach (breakupwriter) | 1 comments I found Irene Nemirovsky's lesser known, early works, David Golder and Le Bal, which are both autobiographical, very evocative and moving.Her writing is simple and beautiful but the message is powerful.

message 10: by Tom (new)

Tom Roberts (robertte) Catherine,

You hit it on the head regarding Karr, "feigning disdain" says it perfectly. I asked her if she would recommend other books like Liar's Club or Lit. She thought about it and came up with a memoir by Marcus Aurelius and, I think, Marcel Proust.

Jack London's memoir, "John Barleycorn" is not on par literary-wise with The Liars' Club, but it is interesting nonetheless since it is Jack London and it deals with an earlier era than the others we've been discussing. For example, he's a dipsomaniac, not an alcoholic. Also, Dry is Augusten Burroughs memoir (he's the Running with Scissors author), which was good, though not excellent.

I'll check out the three you mention.


message 11: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Smith | 1 comments Hi
I'm new to the group but Cathy Glass's books put me on a roller coaster of emotion. I have just finished reading her latest - I Miss Mummy.

message 12: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 20 comments I recently read The Girls Who Went Away and also Half The Sky. Both those books had a roller coaster effect. Another good one is Antoine Fisher.

message 13: by Janet (new)

Janet I agree with you, Catherine. Night by Elie Wiesel is haunting. I will add to the haunting and roller coaster memoirs, A Child Called "It" by David Pelzer.

message 14: by Tam (last edited Jul 20, 2010 10:04AM) (new)

Tam (tamcotzias) Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
The challenges the author with her husband and how broken down she became was to read, but loved how she found herself and became stronger by returning to her roots. On another note her mother is hilarious.

message 15: by Nancy (new)

Nancy  Hart (nancyhart) | 1 comments Being adopted, I was so moved by Ithaka: A Daughter's Memoir of Being Found, by Sarah Saffian. Years after reading it I found both of my birth parents and re-read the book. I cried reading it both times.

message 16: by Dave (new)

Dave Gaston (dave_gaston) | 1 comments Please don't forget Burrough's Dry or Running With Scissors, both excellent new contributions.

One of Fuller's first efforts, "Don't Let Go To The Dogs Tonight" will transport you to Africa. Parts of it killed me. An incredible writer, a poetic richness on par with Mary Karr.

"West With The Night" is a classic / travel memoir that stands the test of time. Beauty, hardship, action, fame, it is all there!

Walls, "Glass Castle" should be on the list. When her Dad attempts to sell her in a pool hall, I almost punched my fist straight through the book.

Rsisabagina's "Ordinary Man" is fantastic (a clever, clever man!).

message 17: by Sharon (last edited Aug 26, 2010 10:35AM) (new)

message 18: by Dero (new)

Dero | 4 comments Messenger by Jeni Stepanek about Mattie Stepanek and his poetry books. I cried through half of it and laughed through the other half.

message 19: by jillian (new)

jillian Woods (jilliankatewoods) | 1 comments 1) Night, Elie Wiesel
2) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Jean-Dominique Bauby

message 20: by Cece (new)

Cece (cwrob5) this book was a true crime book, but it was a very intense emotional rollercoaster for me. One Deadly Night. good book. sad outcome.

message 21: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 13, 2011 06:22AM) (new)

Hello group. I had the opportunity to meet with a Kindle Amazon reader through facebook who told me that my book put her on such a rollercoaster ride she "never slept until it was done." I felt blessed that she felt that way about something I wrote. Not Easily Washed Away: Memoirs Of A Muslim's Daughter. The story itself invoke a lot of emotions anyway so it was easy to write it.
Not Easily Washed Away Memoirs Of A Muslim's Daughter by Brian Arthur Levene
P.S paperback edition out January 30th 2011. My favorite roller coaster ride type biography is A Long Way Gone.

message 22: by Susanna (new)

Susanna (susannahartigan) | 1 comments I can't say it necessarily put me through an emotional rollercoaster, but A Child Called "It" and his subsequent memoirs had me thinking.

message 23: by Kendra (new)

Kendra Bean (kendrae) | 6 comments Mod
Patricia wrote: "For me, it had to be the Glass House by Jeanette Walls."

That was an excellent book and I was very connected to the characters as well, Patricia. Very well written book...

message 24: by Craig (last edited Jun 05, 2011 10:07PM) (new)

Craig Machen (craig111) In a semi-joking and fully self-promoting way, I would say Still Life With Brass Pole because I had to first live it, then spend 15 years accumulating writing skills, and then do the actual writing, and deal with the familial fallout (this part, unfortunately, is no joke).

But... The memoir that put me on the biggest emotional roller coaster is probably A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius or perhaps My Losing Season, specifically the part where the virginal Pat Conroy is in love with a pregnant girl who ultimately rejects him. Also liked The Basketball Diaries for a lot of reasons.

I loved Life by Keith Richards, though it isn't really an emotional roller coaster because Keith doesn't experience emotions like normal humans (meaning, he may be a little narcissistic - or a lot). I also love Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, though again, and for similar reasons, not a big emotional roller coaster.

message 25: by Craig (new)

Craig Machen (craig111) Two more that aren't billed as memoirs, but one basically is, and the other probably is:

On The Road and Girl in Translation

message 26: by Conrad (new)

Conrad Taylor (radman) | 1 comments The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography.

Sidney Poitier is introspective, honest, strong, passionate, principled ,and resilient.

message 27: by Liz (new)

Liz Mourant (aeonic45) | 1 comments "The Quiet Sound of Disappearing," by LA author Ryan Rayston packs a powerful wallop. Please read my review if you are interested in a potent, witty, compassionate, eccentric yet populist voice on the scene.

This book by a Goodreads member should really move people if they enjoy excellant literature (fiction) served up in the form of a memoir which takes risk after risk describing the author's depiction of her descent into a hell of complicity in dealing and abusing drugs (after personal tragedy) to top government officials and movers and shakers in the early 80's hedonistic Washington, DC.

Travelling between Palm Beach, Fl., Minnesota, California, Vermont, Pennysyvlania, and Washington, DC this book is utterly and completely a Normal Rockwell painting turned inside out!

Includes her life-change as a member of Witsec or Witness Protection Program, rape-survivor, cancer-survivor, artist-in-training from her bizarro yet mainstream childhood in quintessential Americana place Barcelona, Pennysylvania.

It is just an essential memoir for those who want some challenge and humor served up tragicomedically.

Unflinching. Real.

message 28: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 20 comments It sounds interesting, Liz. I'll put it on my to-read list. Thanks for the suggestion.

message 29: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Scott (stephaniescott) | 1 comments I agree with Leslie in that most memoirs evoke many emotions in me. I think that may be one of the reasons it's been my favorite genre since I was about 12 or 13.

If I were pressed to name but a few, I also would say A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien helped me communicate even more with my dad about his time in the Vietnam War.

I'm Down was one I could relate to only on the fringe of it, but it was hilarious and moving sometimes in the same sentence. Mishna Wolff was the author of that book.

message 30: by Kim (new)

Kim (kjewels) | 1 comments I am a new self published author. My book is called "Running on G: What's Filling Your Tank?" I am happy to share up to 10 free eBook copies to members who are interested in reading and sharing your honest feedback. My book is currently on Amazon and you can read reviews on Amazon as well as on my blog

message 31: by Chris (last edited Nov 03, 2011 01:28AM) (new)

Chris Thrall (christhrall) | 1 comments Eating Smoke One Man's Descent into Drug Psychosis in Hong Kong's Triad Heartland by Chris Thrall
Eating Smoke One Man's Descent Into Drug Psychosis in Hong Kong's Triad Heartland by Chris Thrall
Eating Smoke: One Man's Descent into Drug Psychosis in Hong Kong's Triad Heartland - a memoir

Hope it's OK that I give my new release a mention. Thank you!

message 32: by Tamela (new)

Tamela Rich | 1 comments Patricia wrote: "For me, it had to be the Glass House by Jeanette Walls."

I just finished reading The Glass House (audio) this summer as I rode my motorcycle through the desert area Jeannette Walls lived in as a young child. The experience of listening to the book while feeling the heat and observing the hardships of living there, seared the book forever in my memory.

I've queued up Half Broke Horses, inspired by her grandmother, but probably won't get to it until I take my next long ride since I prefer listening to books like these over reading them.

message 33: by Leslie (new)

Leslie (healing_writerreader) | 1 comments Hello! I see there is another Leslie on here. I can go by Leslie E. or my Twitter handle red_head30 to avoid confusion...Anyway, I wanted to put my 2 cents in. I've read a few of titles y'all have discussed, includ. A Glass Castle & Mary Karr's Lit. Most recently, I read "An Unquenchable Thirst: One Woman's Extraordinary Journey of Faith, Hope, and Clarity" by Mary Johnson. A quick background: I grew up Catholic & went to Catholic grade school and around fifth grade started going to public b/c family moved. I kept with the church through high school and then basically never went back. So, I have now issues myself with the Catholic Church now that I am an adult. I have always been in interested in Mother Theresa and her work she did. I've always been fascinated by the life of the nun and in this case it was the Sisters of Charity, if I remember right, forgive me. It was tough to read. It was a page-turner in some parts and very well-written. I applaud the author for being so real about who she is and what happened in NYC and in Rome. It is revealing how the author "sees" Mother Theresa and what she thinks about her at the beginning and at the end. The emotions I went through reading this book is unusual. I couldn't handle this w/ every book. But I do feel it is the mark of a good book to have readers feel those emotions. Feel something. That says something, right. It did overwhelm me at times just given what was happening, but I feel the author did a fine job of putting the story together so that the reader may feel that roller-coaster but not go off the tracks completely. Although others may disagree.

message 34: by Helen (new)

Helen Epstein | 2 comments The memoirs that put me on the wildest roller coaster are the ones I write myself (see Children of the Holocaust and Where She Came From) but I can recommend Heda Kovaly's Under a Cruel Star which I translated from the Czech and Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday that he sent to his publisher right before he and his wife killed themselves in 1942. The most harrowing journalistic memoir I;ve ever read was Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On -- more reportage than memoir but very much about his generation.

message 35: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Daniels (NathanDaniels) | 1 comments "A child called It," by Dave Pelzer had the most powerful emotional affect on me. An incredible story of terrible abuse and inspirational perseverance. For a newer book, I'm going with "The Third Sunrise," by Natalie Champagne.

message 36: by 1gr8hiker (new)

1gr8hiker | 1 comments Hello everyone...

I am new to this group and thought I would chime in on this discussion. A friend of mine gave me an advance copy of True North: The Shocking Truth About Yours, Mine and Ours. She knew I have always loved the old movie with Lucille Ball and she thought I would find this book interesting. At first, I was shocked to find out that the true story of this family was quite the opposite than was portrayed in the movie...but as I am reading, I am very moved by the courage of the author to share his story as well as his journey toward healing.

Coming from an abusive family myself, this book is proving to be both cathartic and inspirational!

message 37: by John (new)

John Wilson (eumenades) | 3 comments I guess any book in which you can strongly identify with a character. For me it was Maupassant's Notre Coeur in which the protagonist suffers an unrequited love. Only wish I had read it during that bad time!

message 38: by John (new)

John Wilson (eumenades) | 3 comments I can relate to that. I recently read Into That Darkness by Gitta Sereny, a biography on Franz Stangl, camp commandant for Sobibor and Treblinka.

The problem is, as often, he was otherwise just an ordinary guy. (A good policeman, and so on.)

message 39: by Dawn (new)

Dawn Downey | 1 comments Bumpiest emotional roller coaster for me was Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter by Barbara Robinette Moss. The first sentence is "Mother spooned the poisoned corn and beans into her mouth ravenously, eyes closed, hands shaking." Every few pages I was gasping oh my god, in disbelief. Emotions? Whew. Terror when all the kids were hiding from their alcoholic violent father and one of them got caught and the others listened to him scream. Humiliation, when all the poor kids showed up at school wearing identical shoes donated by some charity and everybody knew who the poor kids were. Shame, when the author describes her face disfigured from malnutrition. Betrayal, every time the father found the change that their mother tried to hide, and spent it on booze. Add to all the emotions, the prose is stunningly beautiful. An incredible memoir.

message 40: by Helen (new)

Helen Epstein | 2 comments The bok I just published yesterday that took my 15 years to finish, TH LONG HALF-LIVES OF LOVE AND TRAUMA , probably the first #me Too memoir of 2018. I think it's my best book. Have a look and let me know what you think.

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