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The Custom of the Country
Edith Wharton, Linda Wagner-Martin
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Leo Tolstoy, Louise Maude, Alymer Maude

Lit: A Memoir

Lit: A Memoir - Mary Karr

I'm just going through the motions today. This book resonated on far too many levels. ...I'm not touching that right now.

This is a searing memoir that would have earned five stars except for the way Karr tiptoes a bit too much around her portrait of her husband and his leaden family. Memoirs with still-living relatives are a tap dance, as Annie Dillard demonstrates when her teen years lapse into caricature in An American Childhood. While Karr is at her least effective describing Warren, who comes across as too saintly and patient, she more than makes up for it. A personal favorite for me, was when her sister Lecia unsentimentally sends her share of their mother's remains in a zip lock bag labeled "Mom 1/2."

Karr presents her alcoholism somewhat fogged - I'm not sure she could look back on this period, particularly after the birth of her son, without some protective gauze. In contrast, her grueling climb out of addiction is like razors. Karr re-creates the pain, the lies, the denial, the anguish in a way that's both vivid and gripping.

Though Karr has been faulted for including her conversion to Catholicism, it's not cheesy, and is less of a conversion than a slow slide. And, I'll admit, that what she finds compelling about this faith were discoveries I made as well.