Focusing on a childhood year in a godforsaken refinery town in east Texas, poet Mary Karr has written an astonishing memoir of her ferociously loving and dysfunctional family.
Karr is the product of a glamorous, bohemian, seven-times-married mother who fled the Texas dust bowl as a teenager to study art in New York City, and a raconteur of a father who swept Mom off her feet the day she blew into town with her husband of the moment.
Karr uses the rich cadence of the region and poetic images to shape her wrenching story, much as her father did as a member of the Liars' Club—a group that gathered regularly to drink and spin tales at the local American Legion bar.
Sometimes truth is best approached indirectly. As an 8-year-old listening to her father, Karr notes, "I've plumb forgot where I am for an instant, which is how a good lie should take you. At the same time, I'm more where I was inside myself than before Daddy started talking, which is how lies can tell you the truth." (Viking, $22.95)