Fans of Karr’s award-winning The Liars’ Club (1995) will not be disappointed by this feisty, funny, and tender memoir of a drug-ridden coming of age in Leechfield, her Texas hometown.
The author’s much-married mother, bemused father, and angry sister Lecia are all still in place; new characters include surfers who nod out at the beach every weekend, the sweet college boy who was her first lover, and a bouquet of remarkable girlfriends, unlikely blooms among Leechfield’s insular population. Karr’s strange family has pushed her to the social outskirts, and she buries herself in books and fantasies. But they don’t stave off prepubescent self-consciousness, like the terrible shame of the huge pimple on her forehead exposed to her sixth-grade crush, or the pain when her best friend moves on to another best friend, or the humiliation that her first real date is with the town’s ranking dweeb, who is also a proselytizing Mormon. Karr vividly captures those moments that are so important to a girl growing up, and explains why they are important. She candidly depicts a muffed eighth-grade suicide attempt and high-school years passed in a blur of drugs (the time is the late 1960s and early ’70s) as she tried to escape the paralyzing monotony and psychic brutality of life in Leechfield. Accelerating substance abuse leads to arrest and a horrendous, acid-laced night at Effie’s Go-Go bar, whose terrifying patrons inspire Karr to one of those chemically assisted moments of revelation: “There’s no place like home.” She leaves home soon enough, however, bound for California, where her new life as drug-free poet and writer will soon begin.
Energized by Karr’s sharp wit, this tale of Texas adolescence reads like a fast-paced novel. More importantly, her clear-eyed recollection of what it’s like to change from child into woman resonates with truth.