My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A good redemption story is hard to resist. It’s probably why the Bible is so popular. It’s also why Mary Karr, in Lit, is able to hook the reader from the very first sentence, even though it is her third memoir. Well, that and her gifted writing. Lit is a redemption story not only in the sense that it chronicles Karr’s descent into and climb out of alcoholism–it is also a story about family, forgiveness, and making peace between intellect and faith.
Lit starts out fast. The reader journeys with Mary through her late teens, college, grad school, love, marriage, career aspirations, young motherhood, divorce, and even a brief affair with the late David Foster Wallace. The first three-quarters of the book–like those years of Karr’s young adulthood–pass in a frenzied haze. Not until Karr quiets her head, her inner critic, and her desire to drink, does her story slow down. The shift in the pacing of the book is tangible. The prose is more reflective, her efforts more obvious, toward the end.
Karr’s story will break your heart, make you laugh, and compel you to underline passages simply because they are so beautiful. Emotionally taxing? Maybe. But isn’t that why we read?