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