Like James Ellroy's My Dark Places, Down City is a gripping narrative built of memory and reportage, and Leah Carroll's portrait of Rhode Island is sure to take a place next Mary Karr's portrayal of her childhood in East Texas and David Simon's gritty Baltimore.
Leah Carroll's mother, a gifted amateur photographer, was murdered by two drug dealers with Mafia connections when Leah was four years old. Her father, a charming alcoholic who hurtled between depression and mania, was dead by the time she was 18. Why did her mother have to die? Why did the man who killed her receive such a light sentence? What darkness did Leah inherit from her parents?
Leah was left to put together her own future, and now in her memoir she explores the mystery of her parents' lives through interviews and police records. Down City is a raw, wrenching memoir of a broken family and an indelible portrait of Rhode Island - a tiny state where the ghosts of Mafia kingpins live alongside the feisty, stubborn people working hard just to get by. Heartbreaking and mesmerizing, it's the story of a resilient young woman's determination to discover the truth about a mother she never knew and the deeply troubled father who raised her - a man who was, Leah writes, "both my greatest champion and biggest obstacle".
"Quick and clear as glass, evocative and engaging, Down City is a story of a daughter's moving search for the truth about the parents whose dark complexities have left a mystery at the center of her existence." (George Hodgman, author of Bettyville)
"Leah Carroll's Rhode Island is seedy, charismatic, broke-down, and irresistible: so much like the characters in her gripping heartbreak of a memoir. Only a writer as brave in her heart as she is on the page could make us love the ghosts she chases through police reports, memory, and the desolate landmarks of her own tragedy. Leah Carroll is that writer, proving that no matter who haunts you or for how long, only forgiveness can set you free." (Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me)
"Carroll's understated prose complements this daunting material, and her struggles as an unhappy, rebellious teen seem almost idyllic in contrast to the dysfunction and tragedy that shadow her...Carroll's determined grappling with the burden of her past is honestly and skillfully done." (Publishers Weekly)
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Great sad book.