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I WORE THE OCEAN IN THE SHAPE OF A GIRL

A MEMOIR

A visceral, darkly lyrical narrative that reads with the immediacy and rawness of an open wound.

A critically acclaimed poet’s account of her anguished descent into alcoholism and self-destruction.

When Groom (Five Kingdoms, 2009, etc.) gave birth to her one and only child at 19, she was already in the fierce clutches of alcohol dependency. Through a series of impressionistic, loosely chronological recollections, the author describes the early experimentations with drinking that evolved into full-blown addiction. Shy and socially awkward, the author—who took her first drink at 14 and had the first of many blackouts a year later—saw alcohol as liquid empowerment. It was, she recalls, a “potion that chang[ed] me, [made] me unafraid.” The greater her need for alcohol became, the more out of control her life became. Groom was increasingly drawn into questionable friendships, unhealthy relationships and life-threatening situations—extreme inebriation led her to be gang-raped and almost murdered. Her pregnancy was the eye in the increasingly violent storm of her life. But soon after she gave her son to her aunt and uncle, she became overwhelmed by a profound guilt that exacerbated a propensity toward self-mutilation. After one particularly gruesome cutting episode, Groom went to a rehabilitation center. As she recovered from alcoholism, she began to struggle with the trauma of losing her son, first to adoption, then to infantile leukemia. Wracked with self-hatred, she cycled in and out of school and moved from one low-paying job to another. Eventually, she gained the courage to embark on a two-decades-long journey to learn about her son and understand why he became ill. The language of this brooding and obsessive memoir is exquisitely compressed, yet beneath the taut imagery and diction are palpable, powerful surges of emotions.

A visceral, darkly lyrical narrative that reads with the immediacy and rawness of an open wound.

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-1668-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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