Monday, October 29, 2012

Memoir: old, new, borrowed, one blue

I've read three fab memoirs over the past few weeks:

First, With or Without You by Domenica Ruta.  This is the story of a girl growing up in Danvers, MA with a mother who was a drug addict, eccentric, and (at one point) surprisingly brilliant business woman.  While nothing in this story is quite so outlandish as to put it in the Jeanette Walls/Glass Castle category, this makes it more accessible and real.  Ruta could be the kid at the end of your street, the one  you wonder about with the mother who screams and smokes a lot. And the writing is so good that the author feels like a friend sharing her story over coffee.  This belongs on your TBR pile when it comes out in March!

Then came Brain on Fire.  I'm squeamish about medical stories, but this was captivating: New York Post writer Susannah Cahallan began having strange symptoms--forgetting things, personality shifts--that eventually led to a seizure, hospitalization, and an mystery brain illness that left her a shell of her former self.  This is the story of the miraculous series of discoveries and bold decisions that led her back. Again, great writing.  This one is available in November.

And finally, a book I'm reading for the third or forth time: Heather King's Redeemed.  This is King's second memoir (the first, Parched, is about her recovery from hard-core alcoholism, and the third, Shirt of Flameis a chronicle of the year she spent following the teachings of St. Therese of Lixieux).  I love all three, but Redeemed is my favorite because she covers so much ground: her faith life, her struggles in love, the death of her father, why she declined chemotherapy when diagnosed with breast cancer, the loneliness of writing (the loneliness of life).  Do yourself a favor and get a copy now (along with an extra to give to a friend.  Trust me on this!)

I'll leave you with this bit I underlined twice, a funny reflection about life as a writer:

"It's an impossible line of work.  Nobody but a pathological martyr, loner, alcoholic, drug addict, sexually conflicted, chronically depressed social misfit and/or religious fanatic could possibly stay with it long enough to write a single decent page."

Her candor cracks me up and reassures me, all at the same time.  It makes me want to write.  Thanks to Domenica, Susannah & Heather for reminding me why it's worth it to wrestle with all those words.


laura m said...

Yeah! These look great, I will have to check them out.

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