Carlisle (Writing/Trinity Univ.) chronicles her quest to know the mother who died when the author was 3 weeks old.
The author had always been told that her mother died in a car accident, but after meeting with a detective when she was 8, she was left pondering what had actually happened to her. Carlisle had memories of living with her grandmother, Spence, and her good friend, Dee, and when Spence died, of moving in with her grandfather and his second wife. Both groups gave her snippets of information about her mother which often contradicted each other and never satisfied the desire to understand her past. Carlisle writes about how her childhood was different than most of her schoolmates’: her grandfather owned an adult video store, they lived on a boat with six cats, she had no idea who her father was, and she could find very few pictures of her mother. Her story intertwines the musings of a child who doesn't understand the complex world of adults, especially the dysfunctional adults who made up her world—the johns, the alcoholics, the men who frequented her grandfather's video store—with the adult woman on a mission to find out as much as she could about her mother. From the numerous, minute details the author includes, she was obviously loved, but she still lays bare the ugly moments, particularly of her grandfather, in her portrayals of her family. The nature of her mother's death and the compassion Carlisle feels toward her family justify the slow reveal of her family's sordid past. The book also includes a reading group guide and a conversation with the author.
A turbulent childhood is accurately rendered in this gritty, raw memoir of Carlisle’s family and her search for the truth about her mother's death.