A Memoir
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Memoirs of a muted girlhood.

To those born into a family of artists, the hand of fate can sometimes be as cruel as it is kind, at once bestowing gifts of brilliance, access and community alongside the substantial psychological and aesthetic burdens that often accompany creative genius. Few know this better than Garis. The eldest of three children of playwright, magazine editor and aspiring novelist Roger Garis, she is also the granddaughter of Lilian and Howard Garis, authors of the wildly successful early 20th-century children’s series The Bobbsey Twins and Tom Swift. As such—and particularly after her grandparents moved into her family’s lavish Amherst home when the author was eight—she witnessed firsthand a jarring juxtaposition between reality and the “happily ever after” domestic bliss enshrined in her grandparents’ tales. At first, Garis writes, “I was inside the boundless optimism…when I looked around my own life, I saw something so similar in its physical outlines to that mythic ideal that fictional boundaries tended to fade away in my unformed, overactive mind.” But she soon found that while her grandfather, “the robust fabulist who spread delight among us,” proved to be as benevolent as his most famous character, Uncle Wiggily, her grandmother was a demanding, asocial shrew with a damaging tendency to belittle her son. Coupled with his father’s immense creative productivity, Roger’s lifelong feelings of inadequacy eventually devolved into a relationship-shattering combination of paranoia and an addiction to Sodium Amytal, which Garis devotes much of this memoir to analyzing.

An artful, sad account of growing up in a family of troubled writers.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-374-29937-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2007