Generic family memoir about growing up in North Carolina in the 1970s.
For Salon staff writer Havrilesky, as for most, childhood was a mix of ups and downs. The youngest of three, she was at the mercy of her older brother and sister—though, despite claims to the contrary, the abuse seemed to stop at minor offenses, like serving her an unappetizing cocktail of tomato juice and seltzer. Her parents’ fights and eventual divorce were a major turning point in the author’s childhood, invoking an understandable amount of instability, fear and strange vacations with other families who had different ways of looking at things. Adolescence came with the usual angst and awkwardness—a shining example of which was when she lost her virginity to a Paul Bunyan wannabe who was secretly pining after her best friend, and who, much to Havrilesky’s shagrin, told the entire school about their tryst, which came back to haunt her even years later at a reunion. Finally, when her siblings had shipped off to college, the author looked forward to quiet time at home with her mother after what felt like years of chaos. But the relative peace was soon broken when her elderly grandmother could no longer live on her own and moved in. As an adult, Havrilesky tried to analyze memories with her therapist, delving into complicated feelings toward her father, who is no longer living, her mother, who still tries to control many things about her life, and other experiences. Now married and a mother of two, she tries to make sense of how her childhood influenced the adult that she has become.
Havrilesky’s life is relatable but unremarkable—a pleasantly told story, but not compelling enough to sustain a full book.