Back from the brink

Mary Karr’s memoir follows two earlier biographical efforts, The Liar’s Club, the story of her upbringing as the daughter of alcoholics, and Cherry, about her unmoored adolescence and nascent poetic longings. Lit begins with Karr on her back porch with a tumbler of whiskey, a cigarette and headphones. Next to her is a monitor that lights up whenever her child coughs or cries. She is tied to reality only by the light of the baby monitor.

Roughly half the book chronicles the ruin of her marriage, the fumbling of her career and her attempt to keep her drinking to a minimum so that she can be a decent parent. Karr is an astonishingly good storyteller of self-made misery. Her tales of trying to be a Cambridge literary sophisticate while drinking heavily and being tethered to her parents’ ongoing calamities in Texas are strangely entertaining, at least for a while.


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