book by Mary Karr
annotation by Wendy M. Fontaine
Mary Karr may have set the bar in the art of memoir with her timeless book, The Liars’ Club, which tells the hilarious and heart-breaking story of the author’s tumultous childhood in rural East Texas.
The title comes from the group of drinking buddies with whom the author’s father, Peter, swaps tall tales. The story is about Mary and her sister, Lecia, two pugnacious youngsters who raise hell in their neighborhood (first in Texas and later in Colorado) while also dealing with the strain of alcoholism, domestic instability, sexual abuse and death.
Karr wrote the memoir in 1995 as a single mother, long after the events of her childhood were behind her. But her ability to create gritty, vivid scenes brings the reader to the raw center of her years in Leechfield, a swampy, muddy oil town that her father said was “too ugly not to love.”
The scenes are so powerful and real that you can almost see the dirt under your own fingernails. Karr delivers these vibrant scenes with a language so lyrical and textured that it feels like poetry – fitting, given that she was an award-winning poet long before she wrote her first memoir.
The language is simple and direct, with the tell-it-like-it-is charm of the south; Karr writes the way people talk, which brings this book its credibility and appeal.
“Your mother’s threat of homicide, however unlikely she tries to make it sound,” Karr writes, “will flat dampen down your spirits.” Continue reading