Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Mary Karr

By Lynn Willoughby

The Liar’s Club: A Memoir – Mary Karr

This is a very disturbing book and what is most disturbing is that it is a memoir.  Karr’s working definition of a dysfunctional family is “Any family with more than one person in it.”  This memoir brings dysfunctional to a new level.
Growing up in the 1960s in a small industrial oil town in Texas, Karr has little control over the events in her life.  Her love for her father is profound and she knows she has a special bond with him the way her older sister Lecia has a special bond with their mother.  Pete often takes five year old Mary to his meetings of “The Liar’s Club”.  This group of men drink, smoke, play cards and tell stories.  Pete’s stories are always the strangest, the most exaggerated and he is the undisputed king of the Liar’s Club.  Believe it or not, these are the best times of Mary’s week.  Here there is drinking and laughter.  At home there is drinking and fighting.  Her life is an unrelenting tragedy and she tells all.
While the family’s neighbours, the girls’ teachers, indeed the entire small town, knew what happened behind the closed doors, NO ONE comes to help. At one point Karr says “…they (her sister and herself) were looking for just one person to take control.”  There was no one.  So while it was the family tradition to keep personal business a secret, in this memoir Karr tells it like it was,
Luckily for the reader, Karr is a natural comedian.  How she, as a young child, not only copes with the chaos around her, but can actually make one laugh through the dark terror of her life, is truly a gift.  And the prose is exquisite.  Once while out hunting with her father, Karr writes “…we made out the blunted antlers of a moose.  It chewed in profile slow as a baseball player.”  Her voice , as a child stunned me a she writes about houses set on fire, fortunes squandered, physician prescribed meth amphetamine.  Nevertheless, the family is still the centre of the universe for this child.  And Karr will “…neither deny family struggles nor make demons of our beloveds.”
  • Cherry
  • Sinners Welcome
……………….and others

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