SPLIT by Lisa Michaels

SPLIT

A Counterculture Childhood
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A memoir about growing up as the daughter of a radical father and a hippie mother--but mostly just about growing up. The author was born in 1966 to parents deeply involved in the Zeitgeist. Her father spent two years in jail as a member of the radical Weathermen underground. Michaels, a contributing editor at the Threepenny Review, a literary journal, spent a pre-kindergarten year on the road with her mother and stepfather, living out of a mail van, before settling down to an alternative lifestyle in northern California. But having central casting’s ’60s parents doesn—t by itself make for a riveting life story, and a short way into this memoir, it strikes the reader that there’s really nothing of enormous consequence to Michaels’s life. Even her parents come across as straighter than might have been expected: Her father stayed a radical longer than most of his contemporaries, but there’s no mention of drugs in their lives, and very little sex. Michaels is really just striving to fit the description her grandmother offers of her mother: “She could take a casual day and make it interesting.” Sometimes Michaels fails: The days are just too casual, the happenings too trivial, to carry the weight Michaels tries to give them. Sometimes she succeeds, using vivid memories of growing up, being shuttled back and forth between divorced parents, going to college, trekking through Nepal, and getting married to reflect on life, love, and loss. And if at times she seems perilously close to slipping into the maudlin, especially as she describes her years of simmering, subconscious anger at her father for leaving her and going to jail, Michaels’s finely crafted, lucid prose saves her from going over the edge. A decent autobiography, but a good--sometimes excellent--essay that reflects the counterculture less by the happenings it describes than by the intensity and honesty with which it is written.

Pub Date: July 6th, 1998
ISBN: 0-395-83739-1
Page count: 307pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1998