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Editorial Reviews

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
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Publisher's Summary

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.
©2009 Mary Karr (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers
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Critic Reviews

"Astonishing....One of the most dazzling and moving memoirs to come along in years." (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Pamela Harvey on 01-30-10


As a memoir, this ranks up there with the best. The author successfully navigates the parallel paths of intellectual elitism, drugs, sobriety, family, relationships, sex, religion, financial dysfunction and everything in between. Her writing is smart and not always direct, and her language is surgically precise. This is not a sparse, lean style - it's more complex and indirect and you have to pay attention. Things are more rhythmic and measured as the book progresses, but the beginning chapters are not at all linear. Well worth the effort to stay the course, however.

Mary Karr as a narrator sounds rather harsh at the start - but after a few chapters one gets accustomed to the "lived in" voice. It's not a nice, crisp and correct "designer" narration - but it's emotionally riveting and very well matched to the material.

I am only giving this book 4 stars because of the lengthy epigraphs at the start of each chapter. Most of them are annoyingly long and oblique, and I started resenting these passages for taking up so much space in the book. When you like a listen, every minute counts, and I didn't think the quotes did anything to enhance the story. But, bottom line, this was excellent!

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24 of 24 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Kim on 03-22-10

Finally! One for the "Win" column

I have made some really poor choices since joining the huge club of audiophiles. I've downloaded some real stinkers and mediocre titles that made me groan with regret within the first 3 chapters - then force myself to listen to the rest either because I wanted to punish myself or I wanted to hold out hope that it would get better if I just kept going. This book goes in the "win" column - fantastic flow and descriptive enough to really take hold of the imagination without going overboard. The last 4 chapters fell out of the groove a bit - but that doesn't cancel out the enjoyment I experienced listening to the rest. The language is sharp and shocking in some sections - which I really appreciate because it's real and I'm no stranger to sarcasm, satire, and cynical rants - I guffawed glee several times. Thank you Mary Karr - you freakin' rule

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24 of 25 people found this review helpful

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