Lit follows Mary Karr's descent into the inferno of alcoholism and madness - and her astonishing resurrection. Karr's longing for a solid family seems secure when her marriage to a handsome, Shakespeare-quoting poet produces a son they adore. But she can't outrun her apocalyptic past. She drinks herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of suicide. A hair-raising stint in "The Mental Marriott" awakens her to the possibility of joy, and leads her to an unlikely faith.
Lit is about getting drunk and getting sober; becoming a mother by letting go of a mother; learning to write by learning to live. It is a truly electrifying story of how to grow up - as only Mary Karr can tell it.
Mary Karr’s courageous, enthralling memoir Lit chronicles in unsparing detail her struggle to accept her addiction to alcohol and her truly inspiring resurrection. But like her other best-selling memoir, The Liar’s Club, Karr expertly avoids treading into maudlin, movie-of-the-week territory. That’s because of her keen eye for detail, sharp wit, and expertly-written sentences - all of which sparkle like diamonds in Karr’s no-nonsense performance of her own carefully-chosen words.
Hearing an author read her work always adds a special thrill to the book, especially in this case. Karr is not just writing about a crucial time in her life, a time when she found her voice as a writer, got married, started a family, and everything seemed to be going her way…until her life unraveled. In Lit, Karr confides her inner-most thoughts and fears about actions and events most people would probably never confess to their parish priest. That might explain why her voice sometimes sounds annoyed or irritated. It’s like she can’t believe she actually did the things she did, looking back now as someone sober and stable.
Credit Karr for also dispelling the myth perpetuated by many mainstream movies (sorry, Crazy Heart) that most addicts magically achieve sobriety and never look back. Karr recounts with rigorous honesty one relapse after another and her serious suicidal thoughts after being sober for months and winning a prestigious literary prize. It sounds illogical, but, as Karr explains, “If you live in the dark a long time and the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling.” Reading lines like this, Karr reveals a sweet, tender side, often concealed beneath her brassy, Texas twang.
But no matter the tone, Karr’s pitch-perfect choice of words and her sharpshooter’s eye for detail will dazzle anyone who appreciates the fine art of outstanding writing. Karr’s sure-handed voice both literally and figuratively enables Lit to transcend the factual boundaries of confessional memoirs and enter the pantheon of first-class literature. Thank you, Mary Karr, for having the courage and the craft to share with us your truly inspiring story, one spectacular sentence at a time. Ken Ross
"Astonishing....One of the most dazzling and moving memoirs to come along in years." (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)
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- Pamela Harvey
Finally! One for the "Win" column