AN ABBREVIATED LIFE by Ariel Leve

AN ABBREVIATED LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A daughter’s raw memoir exposes her “spiteful, vindictive, uncontrollable mother.”

Journalist Leve (It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me, 2010, etc.), a former columnist for the London Sunday Times Magazine and contributor to other journals, grew up in a Manhattan penthouse with her mother, a poet whose narcissism, unpredictable mood swings, and physical abuse the author recounts in repetitive detail. At times “slapped, punched, kicked, pinched, and attacked,” subjected to hysterical tirades alternating with suffocating demonstrations of love, Leve felt abandoned, betrayed, and continually threatened, as if she were stranded “in the pit of a crevasse, with a rope to safety just inches away and out of reach.” Some measure of safety came during visits to her adored father, who lived in Thailand and whom Leve portrays as flawless; from her father’s former girlfriend, whose nurturing attention brought a bit of stability to Leve’s life in New York; and from a succession of caretakers, many of whom fled from her mother’s employ. One woman quit or was fired multiple times over the course of 12 years. By her mid-40s, Leve still felt indelibly wounded and oppressed by the past. “You understand these things and you’re in control of your life,” her father remarks. “Why can’t you beat those demons and destroy them?” Overcoming the demons, however, proved complicated: Leve learned that childhood stress and abuse caused "pathological changes to brain chemistry,” making her “hypervigilant” and “highly reactive to perceived threats.” Desperate for help, she decided to undergo eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, designed to treat PTSD. Two years later, she was living with her Italian lover and his daughters in Bali, finally feeling central to a family. Though still beset by memories, she was also buoyed by “endorphins of hope” that she finally would be able to “outrace the past.”

A candid rendering of pain and survival.

Pub Date: June 14th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-06-226945-4
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2016




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