Book Review: Lit

This past weekend I finished reading a memoir called “Lit” by Mary Karr.

Lit by Mary KarrI bought it the first week I moved to Atlanta at an independent bookstore called Blue Elephant Book Shop in downtown Decatur.  I was browsing the memoir/biography section when the one-word title caught my eye. I read the back and then flipped open to the Table of Contents where I began skimming the chapter titles. When I read titles like “Lost in the Golden State”, “Bent Bender”, “The Grinning Skull”, “The Nervous Hospital”, and “Dysfunctional Family Sweepstakes”, I was sold. It had been so long since I’d actually bought a book, I felt naughty, like I was purchasing contraband.

Looking at her author photograph, I knew that this woman had some shit to say. Deep, dark secrets that were yearning to be read and released.

Mary Karr
Mary Karr

“Lit” is the story of Mary Karr’s life from a fucked up childhood to a wandering post high school drug haze to getting drunk and getting sober, becoming a mother by dealing with her own mother, divorce and learning to write by learning to live.  Karr went from not believing at all and laughing at even the prospect of God, to getting down on her knees and praying.

It was so interesting to read about her journey to finding her inner spiritualism. But make no mistake, this book is no “Eat, Pray, Love”. In fact Karr refers to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book as “Eat, Pray, Fuck”. Ha!

At one point Karr glimpses a scene from her childhood when her mother, in a drunken rage, is standing over her and her sister with a butcher knife planning to kill them. The mother’s later justification is that if she killed her two daughters, then they’d be safe from anyone ever hurting them.

Karr’s journey through severe alcoholism sends her to a “nervous breakthrough” leading her to a stay in the “Mental Marriott” where she begins to learn that life is worth living.

Mary Karr’s writing is poignant and searing and at times dark and hilarious. I laughed out loud many times while reading this book. Karr is self-deprecating to say the least.

“Lit” is not only the perfect book for anyone who has suffered through alcoholism, knows someone who has, or has generally struggled with a crazy family, but also anyone who enjoys excellent writing with nary a boring sentence.

This book receives a solid A.

Here is a short video with Mary Karr’s commentary on “Lit”.

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