The Liars’ Club

Monday, February 20, 2012


The Liars’ Club
by Mary Karr
★★★★☆

I’m not a big fan of memoirs, but this is one of those genre defying books that I’m so glad I read. The Liar’s Club is the true story of Mary Karr’s childhood. From a small dusty town in Texas to a mountain home in Colorado, Karr and her sister grow up with their rough father and glamorous mother; both of whom are usually too focused on their own lives to bother with their children much of the time.

Some of Karr’s descriptions are so visceral. I felt like I could smell her grandmother’s bad breath and feel the anxious fear she had when something bad happens. Karr has a way of crawling in under your skin and making you feel everything along with her.

Though it was written after this one, I was reminded so much of The Glass Castle. It shares many of the same themes: bad parenting, having to make the best of what you have, etc. Like that book, this one never feels like the author is whining, though Karr went through more than enough to justify doing just that. Instead it feels as though she is telling a story, but that she’s had to distance herself from the pain in some ways in order to survive.

She is unflinchingly honest about what happened in her life. No matter what sort of light it shines on her family. There were so many parts that left me with my mouth hanging open. I led an incredibly sheltered childhood in comparison and never had to experience any of the horrors described by the author. Yet somehow the book doesn’t just feel like a dinner with Debbie Downer. Instead it’s a glimpse into a foreign land where a gun-wielding mother isn’t too far from the ordinary.

“A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.”

6 comments:

Jeanne said...

Such a good title. Did you know that Charles Stross (SF writer) has a shirt that says "Tell Lies for Money"?

annieb said...

I, on the other hand, love memoirs and since you reviewed it so favorably and I just happen to have it on my bookshelf, I think I will pick it up next. Thanks.

Brenna said...

I've had this one on my TBR wishlist for awhile but everytime I pick it up at the bookstore I never end up buying it. Glad to hear you liked it!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jeanne - I didn't know that. That's hilarious!

annieb - Karr has a wonderful way with words. I hope you enjoy it!

Brenna - I'd heard about it for years, but then my book club picked it for our list this year. I'm glad they did.

Jenners said...

This is one of the first memoirs I ever read and it turned me on to the whole genre. I always thought this was the one to beat when I read others.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenners - I wish I'd read it sooner. I kept comparing it to The Glass Castle in my head, but this one came first.