Wednesday, March 23, 2011

THE LIARS' CLUB by Mary Karr

I wonder if this book would have been as popular if it had come after, rather than before, Jeannette Walls' blockbuster, The Glass Castle. Both authors managed to emerge from horrific childhoods, if not exactly unscathed, at least with their writing talents intact. Mary Karr never mentions a journal, and the clarity of her childhood memories is incredible. Of course, I'm making a broad assumption that her recollections are accurate. Her father was an east Texas oil worker, who despite some other serious shortcomings, was a decent provider for his family. Karr's mother was Nervous with a capital N, a euphemism for wacko, and spent some time in a mental institution after twice trying to take down her family by driving the car over a bridge. The final straw was when she burned most of her daughters' clothes in a bonfire and then, with butcher knife in hand, phoned the sheriff, telling them that she had killed her children, while they cowered, unharmed, under a blanket. And that's not all—not by a longshot. Both parents wrestled with significant demons from their pasts and were alcoholics, oblivious to the fact that Mary was sexually abused twice—once by a neighbor boy and once by an adult male babysitter. Hers was an eventful childhood, and obviously not in a good way. For example, Mary's sister Lecia was attacked by a Portuguese man-of-war, apparently not heeding their father's warnings and the dead creatures washed up on the beach. The parents, of course, were in a beachside bar at the time. The parents never exhibited any remorse for their neglect, benign or otherwise, and seemed to think that it was acceptable for Lecia, the "competent" daughter, as opposed to Mary, the "cute" daughter, to act as a surrogate mother. When the parents decided to split up, Lecia convinced Mary that they should stay with their mother, to take care of her. The parents obviously didn't see themselves as requiring this kind of oversight, and it's a seriously sad state of affairs when they actually do.

1 comment:

ritamarthe said...

I certainly found a remarkable similarity between Liar's Club and Glass Castles. I grew so angry with those parents. But then, there's Frank McCourt's work, as well. As a parent, I've always felt you can get a hold of yourself, no matter how nutty you're feeling, because your children are helpless. NO need to slide into mayhem when there are little ones about. I DO think you can bring it to a screeching halt. I just finished Ms. Karr's memoir, and and am so struck by her willingness to experience everything again for the sake of her work. I'm not sure I could be so courageous.