Review: The Liars’ Club, By Mary Karr

Unsentimental in its tone, heart-wrenching in its details, and brutal in its honesty, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club tells it like it is. Karr sets forth with no-holds-barred memoir of her 1960s childhood in a gritty East Texas oil town that makes readers first widen their eyes in astonishment, then squirm in their seats as they realize that – omigosh – she really is going to tell this part of the story!

As the younger daughter in an unconventional and tormented family, Karr recounts with love and humor a life far different from the glossy TV family sitcoms so popular at the time. There is no refined, carefully color-coordinated writing here – instead each page reflects the jumble of color and the cacophony of sounds of the three-ring circus that comes with coping with two alcoholic parents. Her clarity of detail, and poet’s gift for metaphor put the reader right there beside her, a sort of invisible friend, watching this young girl’s heart break and skin thicken as she refuses to give up on the family that others have judged to be “Not Right”.

By looking through seven-year-old Mary’s eyes, the reader sees what a child sees and understands what a child understands, but its able to make adult assessments and sees the danger in Mary’s and her sister Lecia’s innocence and vulnerability. The title of The Liars’ Club expands from introducing a group of men who liked to drink and tell stories, to a description of Mary Karr’s family, to ultimately encompass those hypocritical persons who want to experience life through reading about the lives of others, then turn away and deny the agonies and abuses that exist in those lives.

Karr spares no one’s sensitivities in her journey toward the truth, and in writing toward her own healing, has created a survivor’s handbook of sorts. So check your liars’ club membership card at the door, and get ready to take a raucous and gritty journey through the dark side of one family’s life.

4 Out of 4 Stars

Reviewed By: Linda Ramge, Health Sciences

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Review: Little Earthquakes, By Jennifer Weiner

Somehow I missed this book when it came out, and went directly from In Her Shoes to Goodnight, Nobody. Little Earthquakes is chick lit, but good chick lit. Anyone who is a mother will identify with something in this book. Those who are not mothers might think twice before getting pregnant!

The setting is New York City, where three very different strangers meet in a prenatal yoga class and become acquaintances and then fast friends. Each of the women has her own unhappy circumstances to deal with, but they come to rely on one another as their lives unfold. They meet another young mother who has her own tragic past, and take her into their circle of friends. Each of the women has issues with loss, unemployed husbands, self-image, infidelity, or unfortunate in-laws, but most are resolved at the end.

The ending isn’t happily ever after, but there is the feeling that these women are all better equipped to manage their lives than they were at the beginning of the book. This is a fast read, and nobody says you can’t read beach books in the fall.

3 Out of 4 Stars

Reviewed By: Sallie Jenkins, CPCC Libraries

Review: Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank, By Robert W. Fuller

I was listening to Tavis Smiley on the radio when I heard his interview with Robert W. Fuller discussing the concept of “rankism.” I had never heard of this until this interview. Rankism is the abuse of status. This is the most thought provoking and paradigm shifting book I have read in a great while.

Robert W. Fuller is the father of the dignity movement. He coined the word “rankism” because until we have a word that describes the problem we have no way to address the issue and some will not be aware that there is a problem. He points out that racism and sexism both fall under the umbrella of rankism. “Other characteristics such as gender, age, sexual orientation, and disability have also made their carriers vulnerable to abuse and discrimination. One by one, these have all been eliminated as justification for discrimination. The only criterion that still sanctions abuse and discrimination is rank itself.”

Robert W. Fuller, One warning: it is easy to see rank abuse in institutions, government, etc. but difficult to see how each of use in small ways contribute to this last holdout of abuse. As I said this book will make you think! If you would like to explore the issue before you read the book here are two links. One is to the home page of the movement Fuller has inspired and the other is to the Tavis Smiley show with the Fuller interview.

http://www.breakingranks.net/

NPR program – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=3916547

4 out of 4 Stars

Reviewed By: Frank Granger, Presentation U

Review: King of Lies, By John Hart

423. That’s the number of requests for this book at the public library of Charlotte. How I got it a mere 3 months after I requested it I don’t know (even the Myers Park librarian looked surprised), but what I do know is this: once I picked up this book, I could barely put it down. It hooked me from the first chapter with the plot and the rich complexity of the characters. Set in Salisbury, NC, King of Lies is written in the voice of Work Pickens, a local lawyer. When the book opens, the police have found his missing father, the driven, immoral, and famous criminal lawyer Ezra Pickens. He’s been shot twice in the head. Work is caught between trying to find his father’s killer and being the main suspect in the murder. But his problems are just beginning: trapped in a loveless marriage, living a life that doesn’t fit him, Work is trying to escape a past full of darkness and secrecy, protect a fragile sister who has twice attempted suicide, and ignore the entire town of Salisbury who have already convicted him of the crime. Where does he go? And who can he turn to?

John Hart is a local author who has won praise from Pat Conroy and a host of other critics for this fascinating, assured first novel. Hart digs deep to explain Work’s emotional state, his conflicting emotions about his monstrous father, and how it feels when your entire life can turn to dust in an instant. As the dogged DA begins to close in on him, Work must find the strength and the smarts to dig himself out of the hole he’s helped create. Hart gives you an intimate experience of what it’s like when everyone turns against you, even your own sister, and how the judicial system can become your enemy. I left the book wanting more, which is how every book should make you feel. I hope John Hart keeps writing—he could be the next John Grisham…with substance!

4 out of 4 Stars

Reviewed By: Erin Payton

Review: The Wonder Spot, By Melissa Bank

I listened to this book on cassette tape. There were 7 tapes in the series. The book was published in May 2005 by Viking. The author read the book I thought she did a good job. Sophie Applebaum grew up in Surrey, Pennsylvania in the 1960’s. She grew up in a nice Jewish family in the suburbs. They were a middle class family two boys and a girl. They had a black standard poodle named Albert and a station wagon with fake wood siding. Sophie struggles with social awkwardness and finding a good man to marry. The author does a wonderful job of describing people, clothes, and social interaction. The author has a wonderful sense of humor. She doesn’t end up with the guy I want her to. Granted, it is chick lit, but in a good way.

3 out of 4 Stars

Reviewed By: Anne Egger

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, By Mark Haddon


When a neighbor’s dog is brutally murdered Christopher, an autistic teenager, decides to find out who the killer is and write a book about it. Soon he finds that the identity of the killer isn’t the only mystery.

The story reads as if Christopher had written it, making this book like nothing I’ve ever read before. Diagrams fill the pages as Christopher tries to explain the story to his readers. His inner monologue is at once insightful, clever, and humorous. There are many times in the book when Christopher explains what he is seeing or experiencing and the significance of the event is immediately obvious to the reader and then we get to see how Christopher’s mind makes sense of it all. That (and fine storytelling) truly sets this book apart from the pack. At one point Christopher explains why he must plan his days down to the minute by using a timetable. He thinks that unlike physical space, where you can see where you are going with your eyes, time is invisible and without a map of time (timetable) one could become lost in time. Insights like these are frequent throughout the book and as a reader I find them to be poetic in their simplicity. Sometimes I say to myself, “Now, what was that 62nd thing I was going to do today?” And it eludes me! If only had that map of time…

Mark Haddon has written a novel that entertains and enlightens the reader and that is always a good combination. There is a movie scheduled for US release sometime in 2006. It will be interesting to see how they handle the material considering most of the book consists of Christopher’s thoughts about the world around him.

4 out of 4 Stars

Reviewed By: Steve Osler