This is the second of a many-part series written by the staff and editors of Fringe Magazine, who will be reviewing books from the Pool as part of the 25 Books Project.
I read Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club for a nonfiction writing workshop – it was so good that I've since all but given up trying to write memoir.
Karr refers to the memoir as “a love letter to my less-than-perfect clan” in the introduction to the tenth anniversary edition—perhaps a bit of an understatement. Liars’ Club opens with Karr’s mother brandishing a kitchen knife at her two young daughters and continues to unfold as Karr lays bare every detail of her shocking childhood—from rape to alcoholism to mental illness, it’s all here.
What’s most astonishing about Liars' Club is the tenderness that infuses these incredible tales: Karr paints her family with a love that manages to surpass the gun-wielding, alcohol-soaked craziness that defined her young life. Instead of condemning this wild family, the reader comes away with an awe and respect for characters portrayed so honestly that we can’t help but feel as if we know them.
The book gets its name from the group of fishing buddies that would gather to tell tall tales with Karr’s father. Karr writes, “Just being out of the house with Daddy like this at Fisher’s lights me up enough for somebody to read by me.” It’s clear where Karr got her knack for knee-slapping, gut-wrenching, I-can’t-believe-it storytelling.
Reading this book will give you a strong appreciation for your own family, but you will also come away with a deeper understanding of what it means to love and forgive.