Like Ron Rash and Thomas Hardy, Mary Karr writes dense, image-rich language with a poet’s flair. This is not stuff you speed-read past. Slow down, take a sip from whatever you’re drinking. Maybe read that paragraph again. Make sure there are no visions left behind. The language is a major part of the great value here. The other is the content of the story.
Lit refers not only to Karr’s affection for the written word, but to her level of sobriety. Her memoir shows us a life lived under the burden of a growing alcohol abuse problem. There are degrees of course, as she descends from occasional use through steady use to can’t-get-through-the-day-without addiction. There is a family history of course, depicted in greater depth in her prior memoirs. The core element of this story is how she hit bottom, then found the strength to survive her ordeal and then crawled out from under her load with the help of fellow substance abusers and a belief in a “higher power,” whatever that may be. That was quite a journey for someone who had been a devout atheist. Whatever one’s view on the existence of such “higher powers,” Karr’s road to such a belief is a compelling one.
Like Kaylie Jones’ memoir, Lies My Mother Never Told Me
, Karr’s story is compelling for the things she learned, the people she met and the journey she traveled. It is also a luminous piece of work by a top-notch writer at the height of her powers. Lit indeed.