The Liars' Club: A Memoir

ByMary Karr

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
damon riley
There is one point that Karr makes in this book that rings true: If there is more than one member in a family then it is dysfunctional. My only positive note is that the book is easy to get through. In fact, very easy reading, so it (thankfully) goes fast (so I will admit here I may have gone into la-la-land as I was reading the book. As I kept reading I kept waiting to read about some horrid action taken place, or an incident or two, that adversely affected Karr, but other than the time when she was seven and a neighborhood boy molested her, that was really it. And even then she glossed over this incident, so just how much molestation occurred? And by her own accounts she was a bad-tempered child, and from what I can also gather, stayed that way. As for her mother, I just could not see that she was as awful as let's say, Joan Crawford and beating her kid(s) with a coat hanger. Being hit with a flyswatter? Please. Back then they were flimsy. Try being hit with a bamboo cane, or kicked or punched as you walked by, and for no reason at all. Where are those statements about how when she grows up no one will ever love her and that was why she ended up marrying so often (as did her mother)? The Liar's Club is not so much her father and his friends telling tall tales, but Karr herself.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
dawn rizzi
I thought I would like this book a lot more than I did. I usually like memoirs. And I like dysfunctional family memoirs in particular. Loved Angela's Ashes, and The Glass Castle.

But I struggled to get through this one. It's not that Mary Karr can't write. She writes well, almost poetic at times. The sentences are good. The mechanics are all there, but it lacks something. Perhaps heart, perhaps likeable characters, hard to put your finger on it. Overall, I found it too depressing and dark. Reading the blurb of the book, you're told that it is laugh out funny, a comic childhood tale. Well, it is nothing of the sort. You just feel bad for those kids that they have to be stuck with such a self-centered mother. Why they love her and stick with her is hard to comprehend. I also didn't find much of a connection to the title - the references to the Liar's Club, a group of men her father meets with where her father tells made-up tales from his childhood are sparse, and didn't engage me at all, almost felt disconnected. The whole book is almost as if Mary likes to brag about her rough life, her tough-talking sister, her crazy mother, her even crazier grandmother, but none of these characters really draws you in. Perhaps the problem is that she doesn't really have a voice. Through large parts of the book, Mary is only around 7 years old, and yet she speaks with a much older voice. Maybe that's the problem - she just doesn't come across as all that believable or authentic. It reads like an essay someone wrote years later reflecting on their childhood from a distance. You are not really shown the here and now.

In Angela's Ashes, you feel the tragedy of Frank's childhood, but you are rooting for him, you see the world through his eyes, you feel empathy, you feel connected. I felt nothing of the sort for Mary Karr. I only felt like she was dumping a whole lot of childhood memories, one after the other, into my lap, but they weren't interesting and didn't lead to anything worthwhile. Where was the coming-of-age? Where was the protagonist's development and learning? Even memoirs need a plot. Each time I sat down to read, I had to force myself to open this book and not read something more enjoyable. I only finished out of a sense of duty to a fellow writer. Spare yourself the effort and read something else instead.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kristi simmons
I heard an interview on NPR with the author and decided it sounded interesting. What I found was that while the author is engaging on the radio, this book was one of the most depressing and disturbing books I have ever tried to finish. Not for the faint of heart.
A True Story of Escape (Ghost No More Series Book 1) :: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town :: Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters :: Canyons of Night (Looking Glass Trilogy #3) (An Arcane Society Novel) :: Last Chance to See
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
alex hess editor
I really love writing memoirs, and saw this was a NY Times bestseller, so thought I'd give it a go. Two times I tried reading this book, and tried to push through the first 50 pages, convincing myself it would get better. Something about her writing style makes it very difficult to read. It is quite rambling, and overly descriptive, and the story just doesn't move along. Was expecting something so much better.

BTW, if you want to read an amazing memoir, read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls -- a total page-turner!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Mary Karr, whether in prose or poetry, has a way with words. Her expressions are razor-sharp and full of word pictures.

This book is a memoir of her early life in a Texas refinery town. What is notable about this unique story is the fact that it is told without a trace of self-pity. In places, the story is funny but the overall feeling I got from reading it was profound sadness. If therapists would review this book, they would comment on the tragedy of the two children's need to take care of their parents (instead of the reverse).

THE LIAR'S CLUB refers to the author's father and a group of town workers who gather together to drink salted beer and tell wild tales. Mary Karr's father is the best of the liars.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
One obvious reason that so many memoirs deal with dysfunctional families and traumatic childhoods is that happy childhoods with stable, nurturing parents are almost impossible to transform into something remotely engaging on the page. Mary Karr, the author of ‘The Liars’ Club’, has said that there’s no shame in not being able to write a readable memoir. If you had a stable upbringing, good for you. Be grateful. However, for the rest of the population that is so inclined and also has a gift for writing, ‘The Liars’ Club’ is an example of one of the more successful results.

It is easy to see in retrospect how Mary’s family background, the kinds of parents she had and the culture in which she grew up led to ‘The Liars’ Club’. As much of the book involves the process of remembering as well as documenting the events themselves.

Mary and her older sister, Lecia, were raised in Leechfield, Texas (a pseudonym for the Port Arthur area) in the late 1950’s throughout the 60’s, with a brief but nightmarish interlude (with their mother) in Colorado. The father, Pete Karr, worked machinery for one of the many oil refineries in the area. The mother, Charlene, was an articulate Northerner who married a Texan and was taken out of her somewhat educated, liberal arts background. Charlene drew and painted, continuing aspirations that had probably originated even before she took art classes in college. She also drank incessantly, was prone to suicidal pity parties and drunken rages and was known to fire her pistol at trees, animals and other living things. When he wasn’t at work, Pete hung out at a local bar with his oil refining cronies, drinking beer, shooting pool and spinning tall tales—hence, the nickname ‘liars’ club’—in implicit contests to see who could tell the most elaborately fabricated tale. Being beer-fueled, these contests occasionally devolved into brawls of varying degrees of severity. Mary knew so much about these activities firsthand because, at least since she was six or seven, her father would often take her with him. She came to be regarded as their little mascot and her father’s drinking and lying buddies became surrogate uncles.

In short, she and her sister had a very unconventional home life with their parents. Neither of Mary’s parents were disciplinarians in any consistent way and they had both done their own share of wandering.
“What I didn’t know until I finally did leave home at fifteen was that, if I had lit out, nobody would organize any posse to sniff me down. Hell, they just figured that wherever I was headed, it must be better than Leechfield. I was a seventh generation Texan by way of Tennessee and before that Ireland. So I was descended from what the writer Harry Crews once called the great “If you git work, write” tradition. For generations my ancestors had been strapping skillets onto their oxen and walking west. It turned out to be impossible for me to “run away” in the sense other American teenagers did. Any movement at all was taken for progress in my family.”

The parents would periodically get embroiled into drunken shouting matches, usually alcohol-fueled and usually instigated by the mother. She was a method acting drama queen that actually believed in her act. Lecia and Mary even learned to laugh about it with Lecia doing an excellent imitation of their mother:
“There’s no hope, there’s no hope, she’d say with a Gloria Swanson melodrama, her wrist flung back to her forehead like it had been stapled there.”

The children learned as soon as they started attending school that they were somewhat different from the majority of kids and that their mother was as likely to curse out a school principal as to play the proper housewife and mother. Mary admits that she and Lecia were spoiled little hellions and that they fought among themselves as well as throwing effective tantrums in front of their parents. Mary’s parents separated when her maternal grandmother came to live with her daughter and who never cared a bit for her redneck son-in-law. Grandma Moore ostensibly came to live with them to serve out the rest of her remaining time in this life before terminal cancer took her out of it. At one point she had to have one leg amputated. Mary became simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by the prosthetic leg, which her mother would remove and sit upright next to her bed. One can see very quickly after a good look at the grandmother that the mother came to her mental instability honestly. Grandma Moore is a Gothic mother from hell. Flannery O’Connor would have to exert major effort to create a character that is more grotesque. Grandma urges her daughter to whip the children into submission and actually buys a horse crop to use for the purpose. When she finally dies after a long, protracted illness Mary is unashamedly relieved and never feels a particle of affection or love.

In the aftermath of her mother’s death, Mary’s mother completely collapses and even sets the house on fire, then calls the sheriff to say that she’s killed her children. Shortly after this, the family drives all the way out to Colorado, presumably because it’s far from Leechfield. It becomes apparent that her father is not staying with the rest of the family. He tells the children that the parents are getting a divorce and gives them a choice between staying there with their mother or going back to Leechfield with him. Both of them choose to stay with their mother. One of the primary reasons is that they’re happy to be away from Leechfield. However, life does not get any better. Their mother squanders most of the inheritance from her mother and takes up residence at a bar with two or three men, pairing off with one in particular, Hector. Mary refers to him as her ‘stepfather’, although it is never clear that her parents’ divorce actually went through or that her mother actually married this freeloading drunk. Mary is left with various ‘sitters’ while her mother impulsively goes on trips with Hector, occasionally to Mexico, with no definite return date. Once, when Mary is home from school with the flu, she is left with a male sitter and molested. This occurs two years after an earlier rape in Leechfield by an older neighborhood boy. This interval is one of the most excruciating scenes I have ever read anywhere. One of the adult Mary’s primary gifts is her crystal clear memory, coupled with the sensibility and imagery of a poet and the ability to recreate vividly how something felt, tasted and smelled and how the eight-year old Mary perceived an experience, nowhere more vivid than in this fellatio rape. One keeps wishing the little girl can make a last minute run for it to get help but knows that this is unlikely to occur in view of her helplessness. It is never clear whether Mary told her mother or sister about this event although she begged her mother never to leave her like that again. Shortly after her mother almost shoots Hector after he verbally abuses them, they get on a flight to Texas to be with their father. When Hector drives their mother back to Leechfield and orders Charlene around, Mary’s father beats him to a pulp and sends him on his way. Mother chooses to stay rather than return with Hector. From that point until his death, she stays with them and their father.

Whether the clarity of the memoir is due to a photographic memory or simply very fully realized scene construction, it depicts, as completely than any book in memory, the perceptions of a young child. Author Mary is a bit sketchier with the minor characters outside of her family. Pete’s ‘liars club’ buddies are fairly generic with a few distinctive characteristics to keep them separate from one another. Charlene’s bar buddies, including the stepfather Hector, are nothing much beyond rambling, shambling drunks. Hector never really interacts with his stepchildren except to yell at them during his drunken rages.

When I got toward the end of the book, I wondered if it would simply reach a certain point in time and then stop arbitrarily. Fortunately, there is an epiphany in the conclusion that brings novelistic resolution to the narrative streams we have been traveling up to this point. Does it really matter that not all the events described occurred exactly as they are depicted in this account? Even if this were a first person novel, it would still be compelling. I can accept it as an exercise in sifting through memories to arrive at a thorough subjective account of its author’s childhood. In the first third of the book she often admits that what she’s remembering may not be completely accurate and that it will sometimes differ from her sister’s recollection of the same incident. What Mary Karr has done is to succeed as well as any author I can recall to bring the past back to life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bob koo
The Liars' Club was a huge critical and commercial success when published in 1995, for literary achievement as well as readability; and it opened the door for a rush of memoir writing and publishing that has yet to slow down. As is usually the case, the memoirs that followed The Liars' Club didn't come anywhere near its level of quality.

I somehow got it into my head that this was a relentlessly brutal tale of a dysfunctional family, a long whine against bad parenting. But there's more love than dysfunction in Karr's family story; her father in particular gets my vote for best literary Daddy of modern times. (Imagine--he doesn't molest her!) I was crazy for the mother too--but her craziness forms the crux of Karr's story, and it's what separates their lives from the ordinary. It also separated the Karrs from their insipid neighbors in Leechfield, the swampy Texas oil refinery town where they lived, an American hell as foul-smelling and dangerous a place to grow up as Chicago's meat market district, described in novels by both Upton Sinclair and Tillie Olsen. Karr's book belongs in the company of these writers for its working-class sensibility, attention to detail, and the kind of story-telling that makes for almost compulsive readability through pain and suffering. The Liars' Club has something else, too: a welcome dose of humor, expressed through the character of Karr herself as a scrappy, rebellious little girl.
Lives in Leechfield are hard and bleak, relieved only by friendship formed in groups like the one Karr dubs The Liars' Club, a loose consort of men who fish, hunt for squirrels, exchange bottles of Jack Daniels on Christmas, and entertain one another with preposterous stories claimed as true. Karr's father takes her to their gatherings, and among these hard-drinking, hard-working, hardscrabble men she learns about love and prejudice, comfort and friendship.

More compelling even than the story itself is Karr's writing. Rather than present a chronological life story the way so many memoirists and biographers do, Karr begins in the middle, moving back and forth from the dramatic opening. We don't learn what's actually happened in that opening scene for well over a hundred pages, but we don't care, since the story grips us from the start and doesn't let go until the end-and what an ending it is! Those who've grown weary of stories that peter out lazily will be glad to know The Liars' Club closes with a satisfying thump. Talk about payoffs! The end puts everything that preceded it into a whole new context, so that I wanted to go back to Page One and begin all over again.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
antony bennett
I picked up this book because it was referenced by another writer and said to be humorous. I found maybe one laugh along the journey of this seriously dysfunctional family. Pokey tells about the fears that children have when living with unstable parents. She and her sister, Lecia, never know what to expect with her boozing parents and her overly attentive father. I am not certain that it has the right title which refers to her father’s group of veteran friends who often exaggerate as they entertain one another. Yet, if keeps the reader turning the pages during this rollercoaster ride. The hope is that things will settle down and get better. She gains some insight into the madness when she finds some clues in the attic.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
neil clark
Mary Karr is an American poet and essayist, as well as a professor of English literature. She has written several books on her life, but this is the memoir that shot her to fame, in 1995. Obviously The Liars' Club is not a novel, so don't expect any wild departures, though by the standards of non-fiction this is pretty wild.

The book tells the story of Mary's childhood, or part of it, in a refinery town on the Texas coast, then briefly in Colorado, in the 1960s. There is a coda set in the 1980s, when she was a young adult. But what made her childhood special, in the wrong and weird more than good sense, seems to have been her dysfunctional family, and especially a mother who was many times married, saw herself as a failed New York artist, and was at times plain neurotic. Then there was the authoritarian grandmother who was dying of cancer, and a more benevolent father who nevertheless spent his time taking Mary to the 'liars' club', a group of tall-tale telling, drinking, and card-playing friends. So Karr tells of her family's Bohemian home life, their regular brushes with road and hurricane deaths, the universal censorship of their prying neighbours, school fights, sudden house moves, parental drinking binges, etc., etc.. And it all comes out as a tough and sometimes heart-wringing tale that nevertheless manages to convey the optimism of a coming-of-age story.

The Liars' Club has sometimes been compared to Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, as both describe in tender and positive terms an objectively bleak childhood. Karr's book is in some ways a more grown-up version. The author went through terrible experiences, having been raped twice. The book is a testimony to the humour, resilience, and stoicism of Karr and her indomitable sister. And its style is moving and compassionate without being overburdened, confirming that poets are often the best writers of prose. At the same time, I thought Karr under-exploits the liars' club theme, which after all is the book's title. There is actually not that much on her father, and more local colour could have been provided through that device. Indeed, this inevitably does not have the characterisation of a novel, and the antics of Karr's mother get somewhat repetitive. I found my attention flagging a little in the book's second half, and thought this has less pace than Angela's Ashes. Still, three stars is perhaps a little grudging: this is more like a weak four stars. For though not a page-turner at every page, The Liars' Club remains a moving and finely written piece.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jackie delmonico
Oh, The Liar's Club was an interesting read. It is a memoir of Karr's childhood growing up in Texas with a "slightly" unusual family. It took me a little while to get into - partly because of Karr's writing style, which I'll get into shortly - but once I did, it was a good book.

I've read a number of memoirs and a good handful of them have been about growing up in abusive, crazy, neurotic, alcoholic families (Augusten Burroughs' and David Sedaris' books jump to mind). All of these adjectives could potentially be used to describe The Karr's, so when I started into this book, I was kind of expecting another "My mom was an alcoholic and I'm writing this book to work out my demons" story. There is some of that in this book, but ultimately The Liar's Club ending up standing out more than my previous memoir reads. Karr's story didn't stand out because it was crazier or more intense than those other memoirs, but because Karr has a great writing style. It did take me about 50 pages to adjust to that writing style, but once I did, I couldn't get enough of it.

Part of my trouble was Karr launched right into her story without any preamble. She doesn't really introduce herself, her family, or their background, the reader is just expected to pick it up along the way. This caught me off guard at first, but she brings everything full circle by the end of the book. She is also a very matter-of-fact writer, almost blunt, which also shook me off guard. The way she details, for example, her mother's drinking/pill abuse and her sexual abuse are straight-forward but not emotional, which was jarring in of itself, but also just that much more because the details are coming from a six year old.

Karr voice is unique. It really reflects life in her small Texas hometown and the way she describes things just perfectly nail what she's trying to say. For example: "I fell asleep at some point in a saddle slump. The horse rocking me as he picked his way over stones had a rhythm like the Gulf... It was a fetal rhythm, I guess, the kind that sneaks under your heartbeat and makes your brain-waves go all slack and your eyelids seam themselves together." Doesn't that just scream Texas? And doesn't it perfectly describe that sleepy feeling you get in moving car (or on a moving horse)? Or there's this one, "They (diet pills) also shot a sliver of pissed-off into Mother's voice." I love it - I get exactly what's she's trying to say. The Liar's Club is just littered with these turns of phrase that just hit me as both unique, but familiar at the same time. It made for an interesting read.

In a nutshell: Four stars. I definitely recommend it and I'm planning to read her other books.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
c c carlquist
This is one of the best memoirs available, that is, if you want two things: literary and witty writing and a serious memoir about childhood abuse and pain.

Writing: The author subjugates the painful experiences in favor of telling a rich tale loaded with literary techniques and flawless wit and humor. The timing of her storytelling is precise, as the pacing matches the tone of the story at the time and quickens and slows when needed; which is important because each story has a sub story that fits into the main plot like a puzzle, and each character blends into the stories naturally.
I will not go on and on, since there are many great reviews already, but I have to add-don't forget the humor and the irony-the book is loaded with both. I laud the author for a skillfully written memoir, although the life the author lived in order to produce this masterpiece, was not a happy one.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dale lovin
I read this book around a year and a half ago, and it is still the book I most recommend to others. I found it so well written and compelling. Struggle and suffering with a keen and witty sense of humor. It is a childhood biography for a girl with more insight and intelligence than most of the adults around her.
Well worth it.
I have not read her follow on bios as I don't want to be disappointed after finding this book so interesting.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Mary Karr deserves her PEN award and more. She manages the trick of speaking like an earthy seven-year-old in adult terms, and details her life with a maniacal mother and "low-rent," goodhearted father in a manner to make your head spin. Yet Mary and her older sister Lecia do not grow up to be mental cases (or do they?). Mother pickles her liver with fervor and at one point loses her mind and is institutionalized briefly. Father hangs on and cares for his girls and regales the Liars' Club with amusing, tall stories. This seems to be his only amusement. We see Lecia as a mature nine-year-old and Mary as a precipitous one and somehow the two of them weather the turmoil of their home life.

As almost a sideline, Mary reveals that father is mother's fifth or sixth husband, and mother goes on to acquire another after Mary's and Lecia's father. The cause of these seemingly casual marriages are revealed at the end and it is a pathetic and hopeless one. Later, as an adult, Mary's voice is subtly changed and her writing images are no less captivating.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jessica schley
I just finished reading this book, and it is one of the most un-put-downable memoirs I have ever read. Karr grew up in the lower middle class of a depressing town in Texas. The story revolves around her family life as a very young girl - ages 6 to 9 or so. What first strikes you is Karr's voice. Tomboyish, able to hold a grudge, thirsty for love, stubborn as a mule, Karr unflinchingly admits her own foibles and those of others, but also cuts through the novel's events to the beating, loving heart of her family.

Her alcoholic/manic depressive mother is beautiful and educated in a town where neither attribute was common. Her father, a working man with a talent for bombast, dotes on both his children, but particularly on Karr, whom he dubs "Pokey." After her mother leaves her father, Karr and her sister choose to live with her mother, more out of a sense of feeling obligated to protect her from herself than anything else.

Eventually, the family finds its way back together again, and the story is satisfyingly whole. Though few doubt that at least some of a memoirist's work must be imagination (Who among us can remember such detail about their life as a 7-year-old?), Karr has a knack for taking down some of her more relatable thoughts and experiences. The people she writes about, their conversations, their weaknesses, have the ring of universality.

Worth reading, and one of the best examples of the genre I've come across in a while.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
matthew lavin
Many people have pointed out that humor is a good way to keep from crying all the time. Author Mary Karr has clearly gained that perspective as she describes one of the worst upbringings you could have short of being abducted and sold to be an abused female slave at age six. How Ms. Karr and her sister managed to become functioning adults is the main mystery that this book helps explain. They were both highly intelligent, brave, aggressive and not easily intimidated. Those admirable qualities shine through the dingy details.

But if you stand back from your childhood, many of the daily tragedies are pretty funny . . . if you can see those events as happening to someone else who can take it. Ms. Karr clearly has gained that perspective.

The book opens with a strange scene, the author's sharpest memory of her early years. She was seven. The family doctor knelt before her where she sat on a mattress on the bare floor. He was pulling at the hem of her favorite nightgown and inquiring, Show me the marks." There were other strangers milling around in her house and Ms. Karr didn't want to hike up her gown with them around.

Ms. Karr reports that it took three decades for that memory to unfreeze from an isolated scene into a memory of all that occurred. When you find out what preceded it, you'll be emotionally chilled to the core of your soul. The book then goes into flashback mode until the pivotal event resurfaces in full detail about mid-way through the book.

Be prepared for some pretty chilling moments. This is not your fairy godmother's memoir. Ms. Karr was raped, molested, and even found herself at the wrong end of a gun. She experienced moments even more frightening and disturbing than those.

The book's title is quite an ironic one. Her father was a born story teller who paid no attention to the actual truth if that got in the way of a good story. Everyone knew this . . . and that was part of the fun. He liked to get together with his drinking buddies to swap such tales, and Ms. Karr was welcome to join him until she began to develop an adult female shape.

While most will think that's the origin of the title, a closer reading will probably convince you that the reference is to Ms. Karr's family itself, where none of the adults would ever speak the truth about the central facts of their current and past lives. Living in a pretend world was their way of coping with huge sorrow and even greater fears. As they say, not everything was what it was cracked up to be.

If you ever visited small towns in Texas and Colorado during the 1960s, you'll recognize the culture that Ms. Karr loves to lampoon . . . even as her family managed to outrage pretty much everyone around them. She has an amazing ability to be self-affirming in her uniqueness and independence as she describes those days that most of could learn from. You survived if you looked out for yourself. If you didn't look out for yourself, no one else probably would.

Has a family ever engaged in more outrageous and deliberately provocative behavior? Well, not very many. You sense that universal embarrassment that all children feel about their families, but with enough of an emotional distance to bring us into the situation in a way that doesn't overcome us with self-pity.

Among the many unpleasant and tragic events, Ms. Karr sees life as fun, funny and full of potential. It's that joie de vivre that separates this book from the kind of sob story that many such memoirs turn into.

She also sees life as offering the potential for redemption . . . when we face ourselves and the truth.

In addition, Ms. Karr can write very well. She can set a scene, turn a sentence, shape a story and deliver a punch line with crude power. Here's a brief example:

"Daddy's boots scuffed down the steps. The screen banged again, and I heard what I quickly figured out was the glass lasagna casserole shattering on the patio after him. "It's her birthday, you s__ofa______," Mother yelled. Lecia just wound that French twist into a tight coil and said, "Tape Ten, Reel One Thousand: Happy Godd___ Birthday."

Don't miss this book. If you like what you read, I suggest you go on to read Cherry as well, by Ms. Karr. The material isn't as pungent as in The Liar's Club, but the writing is equally wonderful.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book was spellbinding! Karr is a consummate storyteller. Every detail is there and spoken from the mouth of a wise-assed kid, I laughed out loud so often. Her bird's eye view provided a lesson in empathy like nothing else! I have NO idea how her mother EVER read this book. Speaks to the power of self-forgiveness. All families are bazaar, but this one is up there with the highest level of crazy. How Karr was able to survive and thrive is remarkable and shows it can be done. I wish she and I were friends--she would tell me the truth every time and be as loyal as anyone in my life.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
rom kim
I think this was more shocking when it came out. Dysfunctional families, alcoholism, mental illness, all set in rural texas. I got about 3/4 through and finally gave up. The insistent tone of this is funny - no it isn't... not really... of the child protagonist really got on my nerves. I know people love this book - I much preferred Running With Scissors.

She seemed to be removed from what was going on around her some how - and is relating it from far away in kind of a jokey way. Maybe its the culture difference.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kelly karvelas
"The Liars' Club" is a memoir that mostly focuses on the author at ages seven and eight. The details begin with a mystery and continue with vivid and horrific details. I found it worthwhile reading because its story was riveting, its language masterful, and its scope complete. There's no wonder that it won impressive awards and was on The New York Times' Bestseller List for more than a year. Still, contrary to others' testimonials, I did not laugh; not once. Perhaps you will. It doesn't matter. What does matter is the depth of emotions the author shares and the beauty of the prevailing human interactions. The traumatic events are conveyed well and the entire work is handled with explicit and clever simplicity. Mary Karr's journey was devastating and overall it is hopeful. I recommend this book.

Even with all the "Not Rightness", beauty is a word that describes much of this book. Incidental delights alleviated some of the ugliness: bears foraged garbage, family meals were sometimes atop her parents' bed, she got to ride horses, and fields "spilled" with morning glories, bluebonnets and fireflies. But much more important than incidentals, was the intensity to which the reader becomes familiar with the family and extended family. They dramatically rose and fell to occasions... while a little girl and her sister grew up faster than anyone should have to grow.

The author attentively makes the best of situations and in doing so she copes and thereby hopes. As a child, Ms. Karr observes. She evaluates. She has respect for her own idiosyncracies and she makes both understandable and wise decisions. When crucial, she relies on her life-saving (and also very young) big sister, Lecia. Years later, the reader gets to see that she does get answers to the childish hopes for explanations and we are grateful.

Her family withstood challenges and love prevailed. In the beginning and throughout, Lecia (the sister) was deservedly appreciated. The ("Nervous") mother shared her art and worldliness. The father had good work ethics, created well-intended childhood events, stood up for his wife, and was proud of the author's ("Pokey's") accomplishments. The shared closeness of his "Liars' Club" friends (not the only liars of the book) was treasured. And in the end, those friends, mother, daughters, doctor, and even an old army officer was supportively generous. Finally, the author does get-together with her mother to resolve the mysteries that clouded traumatic times. And when all is said and done, we get an overview that is, in its understanding and acceptance, ultimately beautiful.

The book's structure supports the theme. I liked that the author's formative years (1961, 1963) were presented as strong as they were and occupied the bulk of the book. Circumstances demanded that weight. Then I liked the jump to 1980 with child-to-parent and parent-to-child developments. Unpleasant though some of it was, the progression was satisfying. Again, the journey is worthwhile. Once you start reading it, I believe you'll be compelled to complete it, too.

Further, the style is fine-tuned and honest. I marveled at the language and even the variable use of (and lack of) quotation marks. The tone is natural and, at the same time, it's brilliant. When the action is cruel, the heart-wrenching clarity works. Some raw descriptions were startling, while all of it rang true. Moreover, it helped that the book was obviously a joint family effort and that effort validated it's truth. Consequently, the entire approach -- language, style, honesty, and use of alternate memories -- kept my attention.

Therefore, I highly recommend reading "The Liars' Club". The horrors are real. The caring runs deep. Kudos to Mary Karr for so openly sharing her life with the reader. You won't envy her youth, but you will probably become absorbed in the journey and admire some of the child she was and the woman she became. I give this book a FIVE-star rating.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The best thing about Mary Karr's first memoir is that she simply refuses to feel sorry for herself. Through a childhood for which most would claim a heavy mantell of victimhood, Karr revels in her Daddy's stories and probably got at least some of her knack for spinning a great yarn from him. If you only ever read one memoir, this is the one to pick.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
For me, The Liar's Club was one of those books that I found myself needing to be in a secluded, un-interruptable environment to read. The reason for this being that there are too many moments where I would be barreling through the story, only to stumble over a sentence or particular set of phrasing that I would want to digest deeper. Karr is a poet by nature, and it shows in her writing. There are beautiful moments where the descriptions take on a whole periphery of story and, because of that, I realized early on that if I was reading in a public place, I would have trouble diving into those moments fully. I found myself re-reading moments a lot.

The story is beautiful, tragic, and funny. Instead of making you comfortable with everyone right away, this memoir slowly brings you into its world. Just as in life, the characters are rounded - often you swing in opinion with the author about their roles as a protagonist or antagonist. There are times when you want answers, but won't necessarily get them and other moments when you get more information than you had expected. Karr's ability to re-construct the mindset of her much younger self in the beginning is well done and charming, and her older self helps us to understand her on a more relatable level.

All in all, I thought it was a good read.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
tedium wrapped in repetition, has a quain charm but I acnnot get why its so glorifoed? the sentences are run on flight of ideas style. the same things ssem to go on in every chapter " mamas acting crazy, daddys working hard, we children are zoned out and confised." Lots of filler with scant meat...the payoff wasnt worth the read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
darren worrow
Mary Karr's The Liar's Club embodies everything that a good memoir should: tragedy, comedy, indignation, depth, integrity, prose of immaculate crystalline lucidity, a moral acuteness of perception, and last of all - salvation. This memoir has really blazed itself into my memory. It is not for the beauty of the language alone that makes this story memorable, but it is for the horrors that the author had to endure while as a child - and in some respects - as an adult. In the age of youth, one never expects to have to contend with sexual abuse, alcoholism, a mentally unstable but deep down good mother, broken dreams and a continuous forging ahead not to stability and groundedness, but to that of the extreme opposite: a slow psychologiacl shredding of the mental equilibrium and much much worse. One would believe that before Mary Karr ever made it to young womanhood, she would have made it first into a mental institution. But with the East Texas backdrop as one of many scense in the memoir, that is a strong indication that no matter what happens, as Texans are quite fond of saying, "Don't mess with Texas," thus, "Don't mess with Mary Karr!" Throughout the work, if there is anything that will clasp the reader's attention, besides the vivid descriptions of scenery and abhorrent acts of debasing abuse and other vices, it will be Karr's use of similes and metaphors. They are so pirecing and bold that that alone is worth the price of the book.In terms of memoirs, this one being the catalyst that started the 'confessional' craze, The Liar's Club is a sinfully comical story of a baleful childhood, a true classic in the memoir canon.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
danny sheehan
A childhood spent in an ugly Texas oil town, blighted by an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother sure does give Mary Karr a good story to tell. And she tells her story with a sure hand and a finely-honed black humor. This is the reason to read Mary Karr's book.

Eventually, though, the narrative began to feel hollow to me. Mary Karr is telling her story from a great distance, not so much of time, but of therapy and creative writing coursework. She talks of her physical reactions to the craziness around her (for example, watching her mentally ill mother burn her toys and belongings in a bonfire or recoiling from the demands of nursing her father) but her emotional self is remote, or even absent.

I felt this lack only because I recently read two "misery lit" memoirs whose emotional tone seemed more honest to me, The Glass Castle: A Memoir and Hungry Hill: A Memoir. In each of these books, the child's hurt is more keenly felt. Mary Karr seems intent on pushing away the hurt in favor of the story. And, yes, it's a great story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
elly blanco rowe
This is a hilarious memoir of a train wreck of a family, the kind of the family that was not so unusual in the 1960s. I loved it. It showed me, and us, that we could journey through childhoods that were out of anyone's control, and emerge okay. Did you have a tough childhood? Read this book. It is filled with calamities, but it is laugh-out-loud funny, and the author is an inspiration.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
david braughler
Mary Karr is that most exceptional of non-fiction writers: one who went through exceptional tragic / comic circumstantial experiences as a child; who absolutely remembers them AND how she felt as if they were yesterday; and who grew up to become a literature professor who can write!! Wow! That's the only word for the book. I have never read an autobiography remotely like it.

In simple terms, Mary, the younger of two sisters, was the daughter of a tough, take-no-prisoners, blue collar oil refinery worker Father and an ethereal, arts and drame culture-oriented Mother with her heart still in New York or Paris but with obligations in backwater southeast Texas. What a situation, and, to my amazement ... she remembers it all, seemingly day-by-day.

The Liar's Club (her small child's view of hew dad and his friends and their times in the bar) is a memoir from her earlest years through late childhood (her later book Cherry carries the story forward through teenage years). You'll both laugh histerically and cry at the heartbreaking situations for the little girl and the family trying to keep it all together. Wow! Highly recommended!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Mary Karr grew up in an ugly place, the refinery/swamp town of Port Arthur, Texas, and in an ugly situation, with a mentally unstable mother and a hot tempered, hard drinking father. Yet out of such ugliness, she extracted great beauty in order to write this dazzling memoir. Despite Karr's dysfunctional childhood, her writing is completely devoid of woe-is-me whining or psychobabble.
Karr has a gift for spinning a tale, perhaps inherited from her father or honed at gatherings of his friends in "The Liar's Club," a group that met to drink, play cards, and swap stories. And boy, the stories she tells! There's the stories about her mother's manic/pyschotic episodes, including one time when she set her children's belongings on fire, another time when she attempted to drive the family off a bridge, and a third time when she threatened her lazy husband with a gun. Karr also tells about her inconsistent relationship with her father, who suffered a difficult life but emerged, if not unscathed, then unbroken.
Most remarkable about the book, though, are not the amazing stories but the matter of fact, even at times hilarious tone in which they are told. The woman telling these stories is no victim; she is a survivor. A miserable childhood did not cause Mary Karr to surrender her spirit, but rather forged her in fire and made her stronger.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sarah campbell
Mary Karr's memoir, about growing-up in a desolated Texas town under the care of alcoholic parents, should be read by anyone who is planning to start a family. The Liars' Club highlights the traits of a household ruled by alcohol: the sudden maturity young children must demonstrate, the outcast status these children have to deal with in the community, and the futility they feel as parents waste their parental and vocational gifts.

Don't miss this extraordinary book. Mary Karr is a professor at Syracuse University, and a poet. No wonder, all characters feel real and are not a collection of tics and eccentricities which populate many current books. Her economical use of metaphors and similes keeps this memoir free of platitudes masquerading as life lessons. When the metaphors come they mean something. Mary Karr and her older sister are not portrayed as saintly or innocent: They are precocious, stubborn, and cynical.
When parents are unavailable, when children are forced to become de-facto parents, when the same children are repeatedly submitted to beatings and other punitive actions for no apparent reason, a skeptical soul may be the only road to adulthood.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tilly felhofer
"The Liars Club" is one of the most touching and simultaneously disturbing books I've read in quite awhile. In an unforgettable series of memoirs, Mary Karr has succeeded in retelling the astonishing events of her past in an earnest, heartfelt manner. Through her thorough recount, she is able to deliver a compassionate, and at times alarming, description of what it's like to love and be loved, to lie and be lied to. Mary Karr's voice shines as she describes her childhood from the witty, honest view of a young girl. Virtually all of her enthralling recollections are immersed in a unique humor that makes this book hilarious in a backwards way: "Your mother's threat of homicide--however unlikely she tries to make it sound--will flat dampen down your spirits." By using the fiery, blunt style Mary Karr has chosen as her own, she is able to throw the reader into her memories with great intensity: "Mother is reaching over for the steering wheel, locking onto it with her knuckles tight. The car jumps to the side and skips up onto the sidewalk. She's trying to take us over the edge." It's these two driving forces, humor and sharp honesty, that keep the reader from putting this book down. "The Liars' Club" is a poignant story of an ordinary child living in an extraordinary world. Mary Karr's witty commentary and intimate analysis of such a remarkable life make this book a very worthwhile read. Her compelling story should be considered as reading material for anyone striving to understand the value of his or her childhood.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
monica edinger
Karr must be the bravest writer I have ever encountered. Most people would be far too embarrassed to reveal certain family and personal details... Karr brings them all out alongside the more public kinds of stories she might tell.
To read her words is to step into another's life. I think it is fair to say that all of us have stories we keep secret until the grave, and we also have the stories that we happily tell over and over again. One gets the impression that Karr is really telling everything, just to give an accurate account of her unique childhood. As a reader, I felt privileged to be allowed into Karr's life story. Not unlike being in a club of sorts. This sense of collusion is a strong thread in the book, and makes me ponder the power of the word, of secrets, and of writing.
To read the book is to be faced with unpleasant and heart-wrenching details, but there are lovely little touches on every page... her descriptions of other children are especially good. Karr is a very fine writer, and there is a lot of warmth and wonder throughout the text.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
A prize winning authors first personal account to great reviews. A number of the reviews here seemed to come from highly skilled reviewers who had better judgement than the professionals and the book lists. To bad I won't be able to read the next two, since the store is doing the Jesse James again and pricing it out of my Veteran's pension. Oh well, there's always the library.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kendeigh worden
I don't know what it was about this book that I just could not get into reading it. The writing was pretty good, and the story line was interesting, but not interesting enough to keep me hooked for periods of time longer than about 20 minutes.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Mary Karr's moving, touching, hilariously funny and poignantly sad memoir is at once destined to become close to a classic. I can't recall ever reading a memoir this detailed, this humorous, or this poetic. Words simply fail to describe 'The Liar's Club'.
Karr grew up in a seemingly nasty little town in Texas, where there doesn't seem to be anything remotely redeeming about it. Add to this a family who is completely wacky: an artist mother who drinks, threatens her life, and disappears at times for days on end; a father who also likes to drink, work and tell stories with his friends; a typical older sister who both loves and despises her. Yet in spite of this environment, or maybe because of it, Mary is able to rise above her turmoils to escape with a love of writing, reading and life itself. Her memory of early childhood is astounding, her sense of humor unmatched, and her words tumble off of the pages with ease.
I heard nothing but good things about this book before I read it, and I was not disappointed. This is a true work of art that rightly deserves a place in literary history. Read it today, and experience a journey into a talented writer's beginnings.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
marianne bacheldor
This is a heart wrenching story of two little girls taking care of their parents. However, the author was one of those little girls and she tells her story with laughter and tears. She puts you on the edge of your seat shaking with furor, describing making martinis for her mother when she and her sister were six and eight years old, feeding it to her in bed and saying, "Drink this honey, you'll feel better.", how they foraged for food in the neighborhood and their neighbors, taking pity on them and feeding them, never having an adult to ask a question to or call upon for support, forget homework or any advice on growing up. Then she has you howling with laughter with something one of them said or did - or just her reaction to this horrible, heartbreaking childhood, that had enough love in it to allow her to not only come out alive but to have the fortitude to write about it.
Fasten your seat belt and read this book. It will give you a lot of ideas on what not to do with your children.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
karen maneely
I bought this book because I had read so much about Karr's "sequel" memoir, Cherry. I figured that if I was going to read it, I should start at the beginning. I should make a note here that I'm a sucker for the memoir rage that's been sweeping bookstores nationwide -- there's just something ultimately satisfying about reading a book of life as opposed to a book of events. Karr met my expectations with a one-two suckerpunch. The Liar's Club is extraordinarily well written; I love Karr's colloquialisms, her mother's foul rantings, her sister's calm instructions. The book is a testament to the age-old adage that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Karr's childhood is spent on the brink of lunacy with her brilliant yet completely f-ed up mother, her heartbroken father, and her sneaky, loony grandmother. Karr's memoir is the stuff of raw human emotions -- lust, hatred, despair, and longing. The book is marinated by the booze the characters drink and then seasoned by the plentiful "horking" that occurs on every other page. A wonderful book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book is full of profanity, but it has to be to describe the extremely dysfunctional family that these small children had to survive in. It is amazing how these two little girls endured, and what was amazing to me was the way they stuck with their parents to the very end, to the death of them. They were there for them in spite of the way they were treated. However, it was evident that the parents did truly love their children; they were just so mixed up themselves and I don't think they knew they were mixed up. It is a sad book, but a realistic book into the world that so many children still have to endure. Many of us live in a idealistic world where these things just do not exist; but indeed they do and sometimes we need to take a look at what is really real that we might gain greater compassion and be better people ourselves.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Having read this book more then ten years after it was first published I realize I may be a little late to the game here, but this book absolutely blew me away. I've read lots of other personal memoirs that mimic this one, and while every memoir has a voice all its own, Mary Karr is really the genre-setter. It's not just the bizarre and sometimes tragic events of her childhood that make this book a worthy read, but Karr's brilliant and poetic descriptions, her unflinching honesty, her capacity for compassion, and her interest in staying true and just to the characters about which she writes. I was completely taken in by Karr's world, and in reading this book, felt as if I were living alongside her strange and wonderful family - the flighty mother, the strong story-telling father, the older sister who, wise beyond her years, cares for the whole family. I must have been moved to tears 85 times while reading this book - it is lovely and rich and true.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
eden savino
The SeniorNet On-line Book Club read and discussed the Liars Club in December 1996. The following is an excerpt from our reviews. ([...])

This was a tough book to read. I found the author's account of her youth amazing in many ways. The memory, the detail ,the clarity of it all is quite remarkable. She took me to places I didn't want to go, see and hear things I didn't want to be part of. I felt dehydrated just reading about that hellhole of a town in Texas, it made me crawl, so did much of the description and many of the characters. But you know what even though I grew up in a far better place, one with out the brutality, the filth, the poverty, the language ,... by far a more privileged existence , there were times when I could identify with what was happening in that story as well as with the characters involved. That's a lesson I learn over and over again, peel us down deep enough and we as human beings at a very basic level , are not that uniquely different from one another. (Helen
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
pedro timoteo
If it weren't for the fact that Mary Karr has seemed to have survived her horrible childhood in East Texas (with a sense of humor and ability to love intact), this book would have bordered on tragic. Not that her survival means it is any less mortifying - but sometimes it is important for people who aren't raised in such circumstances to believe that children are, in fact, resilient and that people can escape their upbringings. It was difficult to put this book down because even though her drunk mother (of many marriages) and slightly unbalanced father were unsettling - there was, it seemed to me, still a significant amount of real love for the children. Once of the other reasons to read this book is that Mary Karr is just plain and simple an excellent story-teller. In our world of sound bites and gloss-overs it is a luxury to read (listen) to the stories of the world, of real people, not the pilot's wife or the terrorist's child or the entertainer's mistress - but of people who grow up in the dangers of life wherever and however they exist.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
susan clarke
I can't decide whether Mary Karr's childhood memoir The Liars' Club is depressing or not. Mary, or "Pokey," as she was called as a kid, grew up with a pretty crazy family in East Texas in the 1960s. Her hometown, which she calls "Leechfield," was distinguished as one of the ten ugliest towns in the world. It's a sweltering marshland surrounded by chemical plants and oil refineries. And the members of the Karr family are poisoned about as much by each other as by their physical environment.

Neighbours call the mother "Nervous" -- basically a euphemism for raving mad. Pokey and her sister endure her threatening them, setting their belongings on fire and nearly driving them off a bridge. The father, though he drinks heavily and gets into fights, provides a bit more stability. The Liars' Club is the name of the group of working men he hangs out with. Some of Pokey's best childhood memories are of afternoons spent in bars, shooting pool with grown men and listening to her father's stories. (By the way, there is a terrifying amount of drunk driving in this book. And it's not even thought of as unusual.)

S0 there are a lot of depressing things about Karr's story. But I can't call The Liars' Club unequivocally depressing for at least two reasons. First is the natural, conversational style. Dire situations are often recounted with a sort of gritty humour. Just imagine a nine-year-old girl telling her gun-weilding mother, "he's not worth the bullet it'd take to kill him." It's horrible, but also kind of funny.

Then, there is also an uplifting side to The Liars' Club. The Karr family, as much as they torture each other, also love each other terribly. Karr's memoir isn't just a chronicle of childhood traumas. It's also the story of a girl coming to understand, and maybe even forgive, her troubled, yet caring parents.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
The story was very like a Glass Castle but with fewer details. Much of the story was the author saying something like "I zoned out here and do not remember the details of what happened" I don't remember their names or where we stayed" . Hard to make a strong storyline without supporting details.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I am not surprised to see this book STILL on best-seller lists after several years. I "found" thing book a few years back and was stunned, like in "Pulp Fiction", to read in graphic detail the real-life things that happen to children, parents, families as they try to survive the roller coaster ride called LIFE. Mary Karr describes in shocking detail the horrors of her childhood, including a vividly real descprition of sexual abuse. She comes out to love those who have abused her and is wise beyond her years. I can see why this book has not become a movie. There is no fluff, no "Julia Roberts" or "Meg Ryan" parts but an actress with grit could make this a memorable work. I can't picture any actress today who could play the part realistically except perhaps Jodie Foster or Meryl Streep. Renee Zelwiger? Words are transformed and mesmerizing. I couldn't put it down. Thank you, Mary Karr.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
brian c
Mary Karr deftly utilizes imagery and perspective to create an interesting piece of literature. As she drifts through her memories of a dysfunctional childhood in East Texas and Colorado, Karr often paints very vivid pictures that are almost poetic, describing many situations she encountered in fine detail. These intense images allow readers to feel like they are there, living vicariously through the words. Also, the perspective adds to the imagery. Each incident is remembered very clearly, as a child can be very observant, yet the incidents are described with a poet's precision, utilizing the perfect words for each description, as only a mature and well-read adult is capable. The language constructs universality that will instantly hook and draw any reader in. I strongly recommend this book, if only to admire the skillful use of words.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
karen wood
Young Mary has a crazy, bohemian mother... she chases after bartenders, chews up tranquilizers like Jolly Ranchers and has a penchant for firearms. Mary doesn't let that bother her though. She's too tough.
In general, I don't like stuff like this... however, this book stands apart from most of those 'my childhood was crap' memoirs. Mary doesn't flinch from the disturbing part about having a crappy childhood-- knowing that you can and did adapt to inhuman conditions and knowing that you can't really escape the consequences of that. Because of her honesty and the refreshing absence of any self-righteousness or self-pity, I can honestly recommend this book to anyone. It's also funny as hell. Just read the sample and trust me... a good, fast-paced yarn about growing up under adversity.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cooper o riley
I read The Liar's Club shortly after reading Angela's Ashes, expecting a similar memoir of impoverishment. Although there are some similarities, Mary Karr's childhood was marked by a remarkable clarity and insight that I did not expect. As a child, she had adult sensibility while observing adults that lacked this trait. This sensibility isolated her from the rest of her family-she loved them, but did not accept the choices they made. The saddest part is that the family's entire misfortune was the result of poor choices and mental illness, not impoverishment, war, etc. This allows the reader to imagine that someone could be living a similar life at any time. Mary's writing style is no-nonsense and the honesty of her language really hooks you in. This was the best read I've had in a long time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I really enjoyed this book. As far as autobiographical memoirs go, this one to me, read like fiction. I was almost deterred from it, a quote on the back of the back spoke about her god-awful childhood, and I thought do I really want to read about extremely horrible things? But in my opinion, and maybe it comes from being a twenty something in today's society, but it wasn't extremely god-awful and too horrible to swallow. There are pieces every human on the planet can relate to or at least empathize with. Of course Mary Karr's childhood is not one that anyone would choose, being raised in nowhere Texas with alcoholic parents and definitely her share of traumatic and self making moments.
The Liars' Club is beautifully written, with the hand of a poet. She was able to write about her demons and her experiences with grace and humor. I found it to be an enveloping book, hard to put down, you keep wanting to know what waits around the next corner. About what is going to happen to her next. My advice is this: buy Cherry too, so when you're not wanting The Liars's Club to end, you can immediately pick up Cherry, and have a sort of sequel to tack on.
A highly recommended piece of good writing.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
happily ever chapter
The writing in this memoir is sharp, clear, and forceful. It's direct and knocks you right over the head. Mary Karr and her sister in the oilfields of Texas are held spellbound by their passionately mad and frustrated artistic mother and their tough, hard-working blue collar father. Ms. Karr narrates these intersecting lives with a sureness that brings it all back home to your livingroom. In some awful, mad moments where both children are almost snuffed out because of the impulsive craziness of their mother, I barely could go on. I've read a lot of memoirs lately, and I'm beginning to wonder what they really are about. After all, one can say that "The Odyssey" is a memoir of sorts, as is Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" and Twain's "Huckleberry Finn." In fact, much of the world's great literature perhaps began as a memoir but then, through the talent and insight of the author, evolved into overwhelming statements about the condition of the human race. The Liars' Club, however, and many memoirs like it, resemble personal diaries of troubles and pain, and give the reader snapshots of innocent children losing their innocence in the midst of the drama of adults trying to weather or to escape from their suffering and limitations. Many such memoirs never rise beyond this to see into the human condition and attain the status of art, nor do they impart any wisdom or uplift the heart. They are more likely to show exactly how children go about surviving while shocking the reader with details of the depths of depravity such children are subjected to by their self-absorbed parents. Perhaps these memoirs are popular because of their shock value, especially in an age where the self-esteem of most children is religiously guarded and upheld. Or perhaps they are vehicles for their haunted authors to expel the ghosts of their past. All well and good for the author, but I'm not sure what I, as the reader, am gaining from this exercise.

I think, after I finish what I'm reading now, I'm going to stay away from memoirs for a while. I'm now reading "A Death in the Family," by James Agee. It's also a memoir. I hope it also turns out to be a work of art and enlightenment. See my future review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Mary Karr is incredible: resilient and sassy in the face of trauma and disaster. She has a fierceness and a "take no bulls***" edge that I just love. And if you meet her, she will quote Wallace Stevens and Shakespeare in the same breath and blow your mind. She made me want to be an academic. Her memoir is sharp and brilliant, just like the lady herself, and it will break your heart from the first page.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
My cousin lent me this book during my recent visit to New York City. At the time, I was not familiar with Karr's work. I could not put this book down! Even after an exhausting day of Manhattan sightseeing, I'd look forward to reading this book... and would do so until 2:30 every morning!
I found this book disturbing yet somehow so touching, sad, and beautiful that I would find myself crying. Karr writes about her tragic childhood in a seemingly detached manner, like the time she was raped by the neighborhood boy, molested by her babysitter, or the many times she witnessed her mother's psychological freak-outs.
Her writing is eloquent; her childhood fascinating in a grisly "American Beauty" way. I'm now looking forward to reading "Cherry", a memoir of her teenage years. I'd recommend this book to anyone who values excellent writing and good humor. A strong stomach is a must!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hajni blasko
I am quite suspicious as I read the following "reviews of the book The Liar's Club. What makes me suspicious is the predominant rating of 4. Mary Karr has written an often uncomfortable book, but one worthy of telling. I enjoyed her prose, her story and give her much credit. Several people herien ask the strange question of why did she write this book. A writer writes. IF you can do a better job then get it published and let us see it and review it as well. Mary if you read these reviews, you have a fan in Colorado. I know from your book it is probably not a place you are too anxious to visit but if you are ever through the Denver area, let's have a cup of coffee at the Tattered Cover Bookstore. I would be honored
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sara jane
this book remind me of "daisy fay" books. however, this story was pure non-fiction which stabs at your heart the author lived a tough life with a clinacaly insane mother, sickly and grouchy wooden legged granny, adult-minded sister, hard working simpleton dad. from the cancer-ridden oil fields of swampy texas gulf coast, to the beauty of colorado that couldnt hide the strangeness of her family.....this book is a must read for anyone who wants to realise their family or life isnt the only strange one out there. also if you like to people watch, this book has great character development. the authors approach to a sometimes tough life is overlayed with a quiet humor that makes you laugh. at the end, you love her crazy family as much as she does and you see the family ties thayt bond us, while unwanted at some times, are what makes us who we are.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
If you don't own a copy of The Liars' Club, your collection is incomplete. This is by far the smartest, ballsiest, sassiest, best-written memoir I've read. Karr takes normal words and turns them into pure emotion and eye-opening description. Never have I come away from a book feeling as though I've lived that life, experienced those situations. This book is the exception.
Karr takes us into her life growing up in Texas, the daughter of an odd set of parents and the product of too much time and too little to do with it. She tells of family tragedies and heartache so plainly, so matter-of-factly that the reader comes away with a sense of belonging to the madness that was Karr's life. What's more, deep into the book, one realizes that quite possibly, the title of the book may be revealing a private joke Karr is playing on her readers. The seed of doubt is planted, thus enhancing the story and the experience.
I enjoyed this book thoroughly. It's worth a second and third read. I'm awaiting Karr's third book with the same patience as a kid on Christmas Eve.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Funny, sharp, pitiless, volatile - and more. There aren't enough words to describe the content of Mary Karr's memoir of her upbringing in a seething, sweaty, swampy East Texas refinery town. But not many words are needed, especially when it comes to Karr's lyrical and poetic writing style: perfect. At the core of her tale is her family, often funny, occasionally violent, but always defiantly loving. Karr's mother is artistic, borderline psychotic, and determinedly free-spirited. Her father is a drunk, a liar, amazingly tolerant of his wife's nuttiness, and in spite of his many faults, devoted to holding his family together. The Liar's Club is a story of survival.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
*The Liar's Club* is the first of two autobiographies by poet and professor, Mary Karr, covering the period between her earliest childhood memories to early adolescence. It's a beautifully written book, though Karr's youth is not necessarily idyllic.
Mary is a feisty little scrapper of a girl. She's got a sassy mouth and a huge store of love for her daddy. Karr's writing is both poetic and vivid. The often unpleasant events of her childhood are full of imagery and feeling-the people and places of her youth become real to the reader, and young Mary's resilience is admirable. I'm looking forward to reading her next book, *Cherry* to see how Karr's teenage years unfold.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Interesting and harrowing memoir of a young girl growing up in an 1960's East Texas refinery town. The author calls it Leechfield, half with contempt, half with fondness, but it reads like somewhere near Baytown-LaPorte-Port Neches Grove to me. Theres a fractured sense of time, events aren't always relayed chronologically. That could drive some readers cracy. Even within the same paragraph the author might go back and forth 4 or 5 years. Still the overall effect made it worthwhile.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jen clark
Mary Karr has nailed the language, smell, taste, sounds, colors and feelings of a childhood in Texas and Colorado in the 60's and 70's. She tells us the story that only a child raised on adrenalin can tell - one of humor, fear and alert, honest observation. Her memories are sharp and clear and exactly what a child would have chosen to note. This is the painfully honest and extrordinarily funny (as only the truth can be) story of two little girls trying to raise their alcoholic parents and the pasts that led the parents to that point. What is so wonderful about this memoir is that, in spite of the tribulations these little girls go through, their love for their parents and their willingness to protect them surpasses all other emotions. If for no other reason, read this book for the language. I've heard people say that it's exaggerated or embellished for this book. I can tell you that she must have a memory like a steel trap because she brought back words and sayings from my childhood that I had long forgotten. If you are only going to read one memoir this year, forget "Angela's Ashes", forget "The Color of Water". They both pale in comparison to "The Liar's Club".
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book is amazing. I'm far more glued to the pages than they are to each other. Reading the previous comments, I don't think anyone has done Mary Karr's great sense of humor justice. The Liar's Club is not a downer. It has many more laughing moments than crying moments. Mary Karr has a gift with language. She can be crass, she can be delicate, she can make you cry, she can make you laugh.
I do agree with a previous commenter that the second rape scene was a bit over the top. Rape's a big deal, though. There's no way you could write about it without disturbing the reader -- and omitting something as traumatic as rape in a memoir would be out of the question.
Admittedly, this book is not for everyone. If you're easily offended or if dark humor does not appeal to you, definitely look elsewhere. For everyone else, though...give this memoir a read! It's a little slow for the first chapter or so, but a lot of it will stay with you years later.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I wonder if this book would have been as popular if it had come after, rather than before, Jeannette Walls' blockbuster, The Glass Castle. Both authors managed to emerge from horrific childhoods, if not exactly unscathed, at least with their writing talents intact. Mary Karr never mentions a journal, and the clarity of her childhood memories is incredible. Of course, I'm making a broad assumption that her recollections are accurate. Her father was an east Texas oil worker, who despite some other serious shortcomings, was a decent provider for his family. Karr's mother was Nervous with a capital N, a euphemism for wacko, and spent some time in a mental institution after twice trying to take down her family by driving the car over a bridge. The final straw was when she burned most of her daughters' clothes in a bonfire and then, with butcher knife in hand, phoned the sheriff, telling them that she had killed her children, while they cowered, unharmed, under a blanket. And that's not all--not by a longshot. Both parents wrestled with significant demons from their pasts and were alcoholics, oblivious to the fact that Mary was sexually abused twice--once by a neighbor boy and once by an adult male babysitter. Hers was an eventful childhood, and obviously not in a good way. For example, Mary's sister Lecia was attacked by a Portuguese man-of-war, apparently not heeding their father's warnings and the dead creatures washed up on the beach. The parents, of course, were in a beachside bar at the time. The parents never exhibited any remorse for their neglect, benign or otherwise, and seemed to think that it was acceptable for Lecia, the "competent" daughter, as opposed to Mary, the "cute" daughter, to act as a surrogate mother. When the parents decided to split up, Lecia convinced Mary that they should stay with their mother, to take care of her. The parents obviously didn't see themselves as requiring this kind of oversight, and it's a seriously sad state of affairs when they actually do.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
pat f
From the first page of this book I was hooked. Mary Karr's writing style is poetic. She describes a terrible childhood of family instability with blasé Texas humor. Karr is an excellent writer making the Liar's Club both hilarious and tragic. I told this bit to anyone who would listen: For years, Mary and her sister misunderstood the saying "It ain't the heat, it's the humidity" for "It ain't the heat, it's the stupidity." She also doesn't understand what it means to be screaming "Eat me raw."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sidik fofana
This hard-edged and gritty memoir by Mary Karr about her childhood in Port Arthur is intense in every sense of the word. The language is harsh and yet lyrical. The situations are brutal and yet humorous. There's alcoholism, psychosis, passion and raw exposed emotions. But in spite of all that, the love and caring shine through. And the disturbing experiences are told in such an engaging way that instead of feeling sorry for the little girl, I could laugh out loud and admire her pluck and courage. This book is a testament to love and the resiliency of the human spirit. I recommend it to all.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kealan o ver
Mary definitely suffered some pretty detrimental and disturbing experiences in her childhood. If nothing else, this book made me appreciate my more happy, idyllic childhood. It's interesting the experiences that stand out in each of our childhoods. And admittedly by her, the memories aren't always recollected the same as by others, as she would sometimes share her sister's version. There were parts that really tugged at your heart strings like her relationship with her dad and not being able to see him when her parents split. Also the sexual abuse from her sitter really left me disturbed and upset for her. This book wasn't fantastic but it had its interesting points, however it probably won't be one that will stick in my memory.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
james a
A friend gave me this book, saying she had liked it but wasn't crazy about confessional memoirs.
The Liar's Club may fit that description, but don't be put off, because it's absolutely fantastic. Mary Karr's writing routinely verges on prose-poetry and is, despite its dark subject matter, funny enough to make you laugh out loud. Then, once you're laughing, she turns around and hits you with something so brutal that you're caught up short.
I did find myself wondering, as I'm sure others have, whether some embroidery may have been involved in the author's crystal-clear recollections of events long past. She appears to have kept copious journals, but still, you wonder how anyone could have gotten so much detail down with such precision, especially as a child.
Then again, maybe she's a hyper-sensitive person with a photographic memory. Ultimately I didn't care if parts of it were embellished a bit. She's such a good writer that if this depiction of events captures the truth of her childhood, more power to her. My main reaction was a weirdly worshipful desire to locate Ms. Karr and make her tell me more stories, the ones that didn't make it into this book. (Actually, I'd be surprised if this has not happened to her.)
This book pulls you in. It's funny, poignant, shocking, memorable. I give it five richly deserved stars.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
amanda gaulin
I could not hear enough good things about this book, and so, I was so enthralled by the beginning of it that I couldn't wait to read some more. Unfortunately, Karr's style here is a bit jerky, and she too often goes off on long tangents (the opening scene is of something horrible that happened to her when she was 7, but then she will describe something that happened to her at 12, so you know that she survivd it and was able to move on.) Another aspect was just how sharp Karr's memory is. She seems to remember every nod of the head, every peanut shucking, until I really started to doubt the credibility of this story. Hampered by that is the fact that later on she describes the scene in Psycho when Norman swivels around in his mother's rocker and is dressed like her. As anybody who has seen Psycho knows... that is NOT how the famous scene goes. It's awfully hard to believe that Karr can remember all these moments from her childhood, but not the pivotal scene in one of the most famous films of all time. (She also later calls Elizabeth Taylors horse in "National Velvet", National Velvet. Velvet was Liz's character, the horse's name was Pi or Pye or Pie.) I also felt at times that Karr uses her unsuspecting readers as her therapist. Why else the rather disturbing depictions of sexual abuse. The first one is bad enough, but the second scene later on borders between abuse and pornography. It's disturbingly exact, and makes one feel like they will retch. However, Karr has a helpful habit of starting a section with a little glimpse of what's to come. (i.e, that was the night mom decided to shoot her husband) and then gets around to describing it. Granted, I am paraphrasing , but this thesis statement will work for those who don't want to read certain sections. I won't say anymore, but I do know that I am in no mood to run out and read "Cherry." This book was a good idea, but it never jells, and never lets the reader connect with the characters, mainly because we are so busy trying to figure out if it's real or fiction.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
andrew ferrell
I was eager to read this book based on the reviews but was sorely disappointed. Although the story in this book probably deserves to be told, the shoddy writing and lack of flow simply didn't engage my attention. The book has no clear flow and just runs on endlessly as a series of disconnected, abrupt paragraphs.

Poor writing. I couldn't finish it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tim kleist
Absolutely riveting! I could not put this book down, even at the dinner table or in my office at work. Mary Karr's writing style makes the reader part of the story, like she's telling the story sitting at the kitchen able, leaving no thought unspoken. I can't wait to read Cherry!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
The function of the memoir in the literary world is tricky; however, Mary Karr makes it clear that this genre should not be ignored.

It's important that a memoir is not simply just regurgitating one's life. There has to be a strong voice and a less than ordinary story. In this case, I don't know that Mary Karr's story isn't "ordinary." She didn't have a happy childhood. But there are plenty of memoirs out there about quirky/problematic childhoods (Running with Scissors and A Child Called 'It' both come to mind). The Liars' Club isn't exactly a story about outright abuse as A Child Called `It' is, but it is the portrait of a difficult childhood. It's odd how Karr seems to recall so much from her younger years and perhaps the only way I believe it all is because at times Karr's writing acts as memories do. The writing is scrambled and nonlinear. There are points where Karr skips back or ahead and at times this can be problematic for a writer; however, Karr holds the story together and the plot flows from frame to frame effortlessly. What really captures me though is the storytelling. I don't know a better way to say it but simply - she is an extremely talented storyteller. You can tell Karr is a poet. She speaks of buildings "peppering" the town and other imaginative word usage (I'd throw some more in here but since the book is not mine I haven't been marking pages). Point is... the way Karr describes her world is intricate and lovely, though it isn't exactly a world one would want to experience first hand. It's an odd world, but she makes it seem familiar and reminiscent of one's own childhood. If you have the time, Karr's memoir is worth a read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I was stunned after ten pages of this book, because I never knew that language could be so beautiful! Unfortunately that effect wore off quickly and I was left reading the tale purely for its content value. Which is pretty high, as the author's childhood is by no means typical. The question "How the hell did that happen to her?" is one that often comes to mind. If you are interested in humans and human experiences of life (this one being small-town American), read this. It's a breezily fresh perspective on the morasse of life we've been thrust into.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Mary Karr takes reading and writing to a different level. Reading this memoir, I was swept up in her powerful and evocative language; I could see everything unfolding very clearly in my mind's eye. I can think of few authors who have such a gift for taking the complex subjects of life and reducing them to such simple and, well, truthful statements. Karr has a brilliance indicated by the fact that 'Liars' Club' is such a simple read. It's a stroke of luck, too, for it could make the most reluctant reader believe in stories again. Most highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kaleena smith
Mary Karr's autobiography overpowered me at times. Peppered with unforgettable people, it is neither sentimental nor vindictive. The situations described are almost beyond belief -- her grandmother refusing to evacuate during a hurricane, her mother dragging all of the children's possessions out on the lawn and burning them, her father abandoning the family time and again. Mary rarely mentions how these experiences shaped her and her sister, but through her strong, direct style, we see how her life has shaped her
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kate bucci
Mary Karr's prose is breathtaking. Characters and scenes from her childhood in East Texas come to life with startling clarity on every page. The details of a child's inner life and perceptions of reality are amazing.

With piercing insight and brutal humor, she breaks down the walls of the past and lets the light of the human spirit shine through.

Perhaps, like myself, you have to have grown up in a dysfunctional, alcoholic family in the South to appreciate her story - but I don't think so.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
joe crook
Mary Karr had to go through hell so you could read a very cool book. That's one way to look at this opus, an exploration of the author's East Texas girlhood and the collapsing family situation she found herself confronted with.

The book starts with a mystery: Why are police being called to the scene of a young girl's bed? Why is a kindly doctor inspecting her body for "marks?" The books builds a mystery, then takes more than 150 pages bothering to solve it, but by that time you are hooked too deep into the rest of the story to care. You want to find out how the most screwed up family ever to reside in the Lone Star State managed to survive themselves, albeit barely.

While the author is a recognized poet and esteemed college professor, and "The Liars' Club" is widely praised among literary critics, those fearing some pointy-headed exercise in literati snobbery at the expense of slack-jawed Western yokels need not fear. Not that Karr doesn't get in some digs at the rustic Bible-thumpers responsible for so much of her upbringing, but her style of writing is much more akin to Stephen King than Margaret Mead, writing in a real-world way about actual experiences she underwent in a way that will make you feel you underwent them to, whatever your age, sex, or social background. She describes everything from hurricanes to rapes to a child's first gulp of sparkling alcohol with a "you-are-there" veracity that is almost frightening, and hard to pull away from. Only James Ellroy's "My Dark Places" and Mikal Gilmore's "Shot Through The Heart" hold a candle to this in my experience, and I've read a few.

The cruelest thing one has to report about this book is, however savage the author's experience, it never stops being so goddam funny. With an eye for detail like Dickens crossed with a sense of humor as constant as Twain's, Karr makes "The Liar's Club" the kind of book one can't just put down at the end of a chapter, however sleepy or battered by second-hand reality the reader might feel.

On telling about her grandmother's slow death from cancer, Karr is nothing if not succinct. "First they took off her toenail, then her toe, then her foot. Then they shot mustard gas through her leg till it was burnt black, then she screamed for six weeks nonstop. Then they took off her leg, and it was like a black stump laid on the pillow..."

So much for pathos, as she continues: "At the end of this report, [Karr's sister] Lecia and I would start scanning around whoever's kitchen it was for cookies or Kool-Aid. We knew with certain instinct that reporting on a dead grandma deserved some payoff."

She explains later that she wasn't so sorry to lose Grannie. The woman used a quirt on her hide and distended her mother's psyche to the point of breakdown. Though it's hard to say exactly. Karr doesn't give away much, but she offers this counterbalance to her tale of Grandma's ordeal: "Real suffering has a face and a smell. It lasts in its most intense form no matter what you drape over it. And it knows your name."

Anyone who's lost someone to cancer knows intimately what that means, and that's the heartbreak and the greatness of "The Liars' Club," a book that seems so amazingly knowing as it recounts Karr's firsthand experiences as a young girl. Her experiences are raw and miserable, to put it mildly, but she presents it in such a way to make it utterly compelling to the reader, yet endurable, too.

The book works on so many levels. I was left wondering about sister Lucia, a rock-steady character who often protects her younger sister, but whom Karr nevertheless savages throughout her narrative. Is she writing here as an adult, or channeling her younger self and some form of sibling rivalry? I also wondered about the title organization, a group of men with whom her father hangs out and tells tall tales. Whenever she describes a meeting, she slips from the past into the present tense for one of the few moments in the book. Is that a signal that the Liars' Club interludes are themselves tall tales by author Karr? Or is she telescoping her experience in those close quarters to give it the special verisimilitude that makes her relationship with her father so central to the story?

In one of these interludes, Karr ponders the nature of lying and how they reveal deeper secrets of the liar, that is to say, "how lies can tell you the truth." Certainly there's no earthly way of explaining her mother, an earthy Bohemian who takes to painting and drinking with equal fervor, feuding with her husband and taking advantage of a sudden inheritance Gloria Swanson-style. Any divorced father will find himself welling up with tears as he reads Karr's account of how he was separated and then reunited with his daughters.

There's nothing easy in this book, but so much to love. Everything good you've heard about this book is true. Now just go read it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
The Liar's Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr is about growing up in an industrial wasteland in east Texas and coming from an extremely dysfunctional family. Both her mother and father have a bit of a drinking problem and take turns running out and abandoning each other. It took a while for me to get into it, but as I read on I became drawn into her stream of conscience-like way of writing, as when she is describing one memory or moment and she is then suddenly reminded of something else that happened. This fractured style gives you a vivid account of what her fractured childhood was like. The first 60 or so pages are spent setting a scene which started to lose me, but after she laid down the ground work the story started to pick up pace, and her digressions were worked seamlessly into a story and added to the fullness of her character. One scene that stands out in particular is when her mother sets fire to all of their belongings, and then walks into the room where her sister and her are hiding and calls the doctor to tell him that she has just murdered her children. This question is cleared up several chapters and years later when the mother recounted that she saw blood and believed that she had in fact killed them. I found this to be very poignant and made me feel how truly damaged and sad this woman's childhood was. I feel that this relentless hardship was made bearable for the author and for me by her sense of humor.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
elvia duran
Highly recommend, very well written story and an unlikely happy ending. I do want to know a bit more about how the author dealt with her two sexual assaults but maybe that would be an entirely new memoir.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lisa j k
Tells the story of a young family as they struggle through life. She makes all the characters so rich and believable, describing them in a way that is painfully honest and just makes you love them more for all their flaws. Some trauma triggers, just skip past them. Read it! It’s wonderful.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
It took me a couple of months to wade through this book, when I normally like to read a book through in one sitting.

Mary was very brave to have written with such unabashed honestly, and I commend her for doing so. It is a difficult, heartbreaking read. I was touched by the small intimate details she shared, which most people would see as only an afterthought and never put into print.

All in all, I liked this book. It's hard to give a rough synopsis of this book, which has so many layers that can not be so easily surmised.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
anna domingo
I looked forward to reading this book knowing the awards it won and the many months it lasted on the bestseller list. Surprisingly, I was disappointed. Although Ms. Karr's story is intense, this is a slow read, one loaded with unnecessary metaphors and tangential, distracting references. The author would have earned more sympathy particularly for her mother, in light of her illness, and generally, for her family's dysfunction, had she relayed this account more concisely. I prefer memoirs in the style of Mary Cantwell's AMERICAN GIRL, or MANHATTAN, WHEN I WAS YOUNG, or Russell Baker's GROWING UP.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
An interesting counterpoint to Running with Scissors, which I read recently. As far as memoirs provide insights into the author, I would much rather have dinner/drinks with Mary Karr than Augusten Burroughs. Somehow she seems much less self-absorbed. Also, in addition to her great descriptions of her family dynamics and situation, she beautifully portrayed life in a small Gulf Coast town. Though not a big reader of poetry, I'll seek out her other writing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I too was disappointed to see so many "4" ratings. I'd be interested to hear what these critics are looking for in a book. Picnics, princes and happy endings? Mary Karr is more honest than that. She has looked at her life without squinting and acknowledged both the hurt and the humor. And she was brave enough to share it with us. I read her book on a road trip across the states last year, and when I saw the Gulf for the first time, I began to understand
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
One of the best books I've read in a long time; I'd get going reading fast because I wanted to know what happened next, then put it down because I didn't want to finish it too soon. Amazing storytelling. Brought the period right back to me (I sure recall the boredom of those canned reading lessons we had in school!) and made me feel like I'd grown up in Texas (which I sure didn't). Horrible events yet you never hate the parents, which is remarkable.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
olsy vinoli arnof
If you don't own a copy of The Liars' Club, your collection is incomplete. This is by far the smartest, ballsiest, sassiest, best-written memoir I've read. Karr takes normal words and turns them into pure emotion and eye-opening description. Never have I come away from a book feeling as though I've lived that life, experienced those situations. This book is the exception. I'm awaiting Karr's third book with the same patience as a kid on Christmas Eve.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chris dartois
Well, I can't believe it took me 10 years to find this book. A real page turner. Once again, truth is stranger than fiction. It's a great sister book and the story of a family that forgave and forgot and moved on. Of course, it's hard for parents to forgive children growing up, and she had the good judgment to spare us what must have been anguishing stories with her father. It's inspired me to do that life long dream: to write my own.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I grew up in the same town Mary did and even graduated with her from high school. I never knew how terrible her childhood was, hence the title, Liar's Club. I was amazed to find out the trauma she was enduring while I experienced such a wonderful childhood. It was heartbreaking to read of her ordeals, yet so funny to hear of our small town written about with such hilarious accuracy. I can't wait to read her next book, Cherry. Keep it up, Mary!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
patty meadors
I can't tell you how disappointed I am. The technical errors in the book piled up until just beyond halfway through, I didn't want to finish it. For instance on Page 147 (pprbk 2005) Karr says her mother lipsticked up all the mirrors in the house. She says the metal at the end of the lipstick scratched the silver backing off the mirror. The silver is on the back of the mirror and cannot be scratched off from the front. On Page 88 Karr describes her Grandma being carried by a firefighter in such a way that the inadvertent panty-shots she claims occurred are not possible. Likewise a method of putting on a horse's bridle on Page 184. Anyone who bridled a horse this way would be named Stumpy-fingers by the end of a month. There are more.

I wonder now: Are the more subjective details just as full of it? Lesson to writers: if you screw up the technical details, your reader will close the book. I did.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It's not often that I read a book and hang on every word. This was one of those rare occassions. This book has been sitting on my shelves for a couple of years, when I purchased it based on a friend's recommendation. Admittedly, I was skeptical, as I am of just about any memoir that makes the bestseller list. I was afraid that it would be another one of those self-serving "victim of a bad childhood that has scarred me forever, but look how resilient I am" memoirs. And while it is true that Mary Karr had a frighteningly bad childhood, and while it is true that she was the victim of many awful situations, she never puts herself in that role. At times, it's absolutely terrifying to read, and I cringed at parts of it, but I was amazed throughout--amazed at the fact that she had lived through everything that happened and amazed at how clearly and precisely she was able to write about it. Karr has a way with description that puts the reader right in the middle of the story. The book is so well-written that I did not want to put it down, but I forced myself to put it down just so I could come back to it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
katie matthews
I haven't seen writing this carefully crafted in a long time. Gave me goose bumps! Liar's Club is the kind of book that inspires other people to write. And it's a memoir! You will find some really poignant, often terrifying observations from the view of a child. Karr is not afraid to show the spontaneity that leads a child to do gauky and often hateful things. I had forgotten some of the irrational behavior I engaged in as a kid, and this book brought it back and nearly puts it under a microscope. The pace of this memoir quickens after the first third of the book, but it takes that long to develop these very three dimensional characters. (I keep forgetting these "characters" are/were real people!) Mary Karr deserves a standing ovation. Read this book. It's a true pleasure, and you will be better for having read it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Mary Karr not only has an excellent memory for detail but she is painfully truthful in her account. Having read the book I wondered what really was her point in writing it. Was it simply to heave her childhood, sad in so many ways yet joyful in others, off her chest? To pay homage to her older sister (who won my respect for the various roles she played in hers and her sibling's upbringing)? To communicate to others with similar experiences that it's better to look oneself and one's history in the face and accept and deal with whatever issues might have emerged as a result instead of sweeping it all under one's emotional carpet, poisoning the system in the process...
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Mary Karr's memior, The Liar's Club, is an exploration into her traumatic childhood growing up amidst alcohol and other dysfunction. Karr is able to tell her tale in the most conversational tone I have encountered...I often wondered if I wasn't experiencing the events with her! Her prose is engaging. Simultaneously, she makes you laugh out loud while putting an ache in your heart. I highly recommend this worthwile read.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
liz d
I believe the reason the tone of this book is so flat is that Karr is much more interested in remembering her childhood the way she needs to remember it, rather than the way it really happened. Anyway, it rings false for me. Virtually none of the brightness and magic that shines so sweetly in childhood is present here.
The great appeal of this book is, as I'm sure many have noted before me, schadenfreude, i.e., enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others. The appeal is further compounded by the novelty of the contrast between the book's dreariness and all the sugar coated pap everyone gets fed to them by Hollywood and TV. But that's just my guess. And although I enjoy a good pratfall as much as the next guy, I'm not ghoulish enough to enjoy wading through 300 pages of it. As for TV and Hollywood, people would find more nourishment for their souls all around them if they would just turn their backs on the entertainment industry. Thanks for listening.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I'm sure my review will be similar to anyone's who read this book. The language is fantastic. There is nothing better than reading a poet's view of the world. Every word is cherished like a small gift. The perspective and voice is so unique, it draws you into the story. I laughed, I cried, I couldn't put the freaking book down! By the end I was left with the feeling of being proud for being part of this resilient human race. We are never so capable as when we are put into situations we could never conceive of being thrown into. And we are never so beautiful as when we come out fighting for the things we love most.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
brennan sigel
Mary stated her mother was in a hurry to begin her family because she was 30 years old upon meeting her father. Assuming she became pregnant immediately after meeting him, that would have put her at 40 years old when the grandmother came to live with them since Mary's sister at that point was 9. Mary says the grandmother was 50 when she moved in with them. That would mean she gave birth to Mary's mother at 10.
The writing was excellent, the story was excellent. Just call it what it is - fiction!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
If you love prose by superb poets (think Ondaatje); can't imagine a raucous, sometimes abusive, Texas childhood in the home of Agent Orange, with two parents violently in love with each other and their daughters, a warm refinery monkey and a could-be literata; want to know how these same two parents filled their younger daughter with grist for memoirs for our narcissistic age (think Tobias Wolf); and are happy to forgo the gym by laughing so hard your whole core ab workout is unnecessary, you will love the work of a writer David Foster Wallace was lucky enough to adore and we are priviledged to read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
stuart dummit
I am from the same area and boy can I identify with this book! From riding bikes in the DDT clouds of the "mosquito man" to having the dysfunctional family (are there any other kind). I mean, who else would have settled in this swampy, mosquito-infested mudhole? I loved this book and I have loaned my copy out several times. Thanks for the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ginger taylor
It felt like I was staying up late with a friend, talking about life.
Mary Karr's not afraid to drop pretenses and let you in. A bit like David Sedaris, she makes you feel like one of the family (which is good because otherwise you'd feel guilty for laughing).
I found myself pulling for her all the way and amazed at her resilience. Heartfelt. Funny. Mary Karr's life reads better than fiction. Highly, highly recommended. A truly gifted storyteller.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
doc kaos
Mary Karr does not hold back on sharing painful memories and I also laughed many times at her observations. However, a serious edit of this memoir was desperately needed. Many anecdotes go on far too long and meander, often making it hard to continue reading. I was also turned off by graphic descriptions of sexual abuse that she suffered (unfortunately) as a child. While I think these experiences were important to include, the paragraphs of descriptions seemed like something she should share more with a therapist than a reader.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
owen mckenzie
I just loved this book. I loved the trip through this book, the words, the feel, all of it. It's one of those books you don't read particularly for the power of the message but for the pleasure of being given passage through someone's memory. Although the story reminded me of the way people parent so irresponsibly, it sure does happen so frequently. Bittersweet tale!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mary bourgeois
This book is an appalling, hilarious account of a girl growing up in a hard-drinking blue-collar family in an East Texas refinery town. I was an engineer in one of those refineries and this book rings so true, it hurts. Believe me, not every one in East Texas is this (degenerate is not the right word, but I can't come up with anything better), but a hell of a lot of them are. And Karr has such an upbeat attitude in spite of all the bad things in her life, that I rolled in the aisles. Believe me - its a rare treasure to find a book like this. (Incidentally, this book horrified my sister-in-law, but she often takes things a little bit too seriously. And there's no town named Leechfield, Texas, but the description sounds an awful lot like Port Acres, a former suburb of Port Arthur.)
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
nicole ediss
After reading Liars Club I felt it was in a long line of disfunctional family novels that seem to be popular these days. Along with Jeanette Walls books and othese I have read I felt that this book didn't flow as well. The main character seemed to be 8 years old thru the whole book until the end when she had left home. Felt it was a bit wordy in some spots and well written in others....felt with a good editing it might have been a worthwile read
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Liar's Club is an emotive story with relatable and powerful characters, which makes the book so brilliant. From the Oil Refinery Town of Leitchfield, Texas to the mountains of Colorado Mary Karr humorously describes her tumultuous and chaotic childhood. The book emphasizes the destructive impact that alcohol can have on people. While reading the book you begin to compare and contrast the Karr family with your own and by doing so the reader will realize the importance of family unity. Mary Karr is able to describe her childhood with such accuracy that when you have finished the book it seems that you experienced her upbringing. Even though the author endured a frenzied past, The Liar's Club contains an even amount of humor and sadness. The Liar's Club is a great read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys wit and dark humor.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Mary Karr's memoir of her childhood is a wonderful read. Her story lines are interesting and here writing style beautiful. Karr does magic with a ink and paper, I felt as though I was right next to her, in her kitchen or in the back of their car, with her parents, sister and other cast of characters. Enchanting -- the words are combined into sentences that taste like fine, hand-crafted chocolates that I purchase from the french chocolateer in north beach. Her descriptions of her mother, father and life growing up with a rock 'em, sock 'em, work-yell-and-drink-to-you-puke household are telling of a real survivor -- she reminds me of Bukowski. This book is one to pick up and read.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
mer cardo
Mary Karr has a story here begging to be told. She does know how to structure an anecdote and doesn't seem restricted by a need to literally reconstruct what happened. But in addition to a self-help confessional, a reader is entitled to some artistry which in this case should have included appropriate language. Having grown up in a dysfunctional family myself, I know the language used by poor white trash just as Mary Karr does. But I do not agree that people who are angry, irritated, irate, or upset should always be depicted as "pissed off." Surely a good writer ought to have a more extensive vocabulary to bring to bear on true emotion, and a good editor ought to help that writer realize something more elevated than what we have here. This is essentially wallowing in low-class, trashy behavior, a type of infantile fecal-smearing act meant to attract attention. This reader hopes that re-telling this story helped the author to come to grips with it; the presentation offered little more than repulsion to this reader. The book doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as "Angela's Ashes."
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
lynn gosselin
This book was well written with descriptive language. Loved the writer but not the topic. It was hard to read at times and it was very depressing due to the subject matter. I know some people enjoy that type of book but I did not and would have likely not finished it had it not been for a book club.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This story raises questions about relationships with a mad
mother, ineffectual father, and trusting sister. Does
Mary exaggerate the truth when relating events that
surround her growing up? This story will encourage the
reader to ask questions about their families and secrets.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
nalini rao
I was really looking forward to reading this NY Times bestseller, award winning, sometimes referred to as life-altering book. I am just over half-way through (a move to CO) and must admit I am bored to tears. The story itself, the writing style, none of it is holding my attention. I keep going hoping that perhaps as she ages, it will become more interesting. The last book I was forced to put down was Infinite Jest (unbelievably after getting over 1/2 way through). I rarely stop reading a book so will trudge through to the end of this one & once again look forward to reading what's next on my list. I just don't get the hype, but hey, that's just my humble opinion.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
angel morris
bo-ring. i just didn't like the book. granted, some of the subject matter was interesting, as is true in almost every book, but there was something this particular one i found extremely dull. it never went below the surface, and it feels to me that although she's talking about all this deep and profound stuff - family chaos, alcoholism, mental illness - she doesn't really have much perspective on it, and is still herself deeply rooted in her own family system (look at the people she dedicates the book to!). i've found SO MANY better books than this one - what a bore!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
gretchen mclaughlin
Mary Karr has crafted a beautiful memoir that speaks to the humanity of families, whatever their form. Her writing is full of the glorious characters and wonderful details. Her gift of poetry shines through in the writing. I highly recommend this book.

Janine Latus

author of "If I Am Misisng or Dead"

If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
A wonderful memoir - honest and riveting. But I would like to know more, after that harrowing childhood, how the author fared as an adult. She mentions she married. Did it last, does she have children? I developed such emotional involvement with her as a child that I felt at loose ends not knowing more about the woman she grew into.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
cate clark
I really don't know what all the good reviews are about on this book. I really enjoy reading memoirs, but I just couln't get into this one. For the most part I thought the stories were not very interesting. I kept putting the book down, and then kept convincing myself that it must get better if so many people rated it with five stars. I just put it down once again, and I'm about 80% finished at this point and it hasn't gotten very interesting. I'm disappointed...I hoped to order the other 2 to take on vacation with me, but probably won't bother.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
betsy davis
This is one of few books that I've re-read for fun (as opposed to re-reading classics every year when I teach them to my students). The subject matter and language can be a bit rough, but the descriptive writing, voice and plot line are incredible - an example of truth being more interesting than fiction. I especially enjoyed it b/c the author grew up in Texas as I did, but I don't think you have to be a Southerner to enjoy this book (although you might "get it" a little more). The real reason I love this book is b/c it is very easy reading, not flowery, abstract, pretentious "literature", but when you finish it, you will feel like you read something with depth that will stay with you for a long time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shelley ettinger
I grew up with Mary, I was even in the same third grade class. While I knew her mother to be "eccentric", I never realized what a traumatic childhood she had! I also had a traumatic childhood due to alcoholism. Mary has the ability to write about her experiences with humor. I really enjoyed this book and was very happy for Mary that it became a best seller. Glad that people from all over could identify with the story. The book brought back a lot of memories of places I had forgotten about. I'm looking forward to her new book "Cherry".
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
colleen boyle
How does she do it?

This will forever be one of my favorite books. Reading about the astoundingly crazy life Mary Karr had as a child made me wonder how her sense of humor could be so sharp and perfect and still get across the sadness and pathos without making me feel bad or hopeless.

Nor did I feel that she was in a hopeless situation. It always seemed as though there were morsels of goodness somewhere to be found. A profoundly inspiring book. I only hope I can be as resourceful and resilient.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alex clermont
Mary Karr takes you on an emotional rollercoaster, filled with ups and downs as sharp and quick as a ride on the Matterhorn. The imagery and detail she lends to the most (seemingly) insignificant events makes her life pop out in 3-D for us to examine.
Karr's voice is always REAL. Its gritty and unapologetic, but flows through the most difficult and disturbing of situations without wavering. She's a brilliant storyteller - and this book has made for some of the best rainy day entertainment I've had.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
As much as I would like to give this one star, it would be unfair, as the author is literate and can tell a coherent and sometimes interesting story, however boring and trivial (from the public standpoint) for the most part. Even on the local Texas library's local authors bookshelf, it's not that much of a read. There are lots of working class stories around that are better, both nonfiction and fiction, which Carr's book is in considerable part despite her claims to the contrary.

The following comments from an interview with Don Graham, UTexas English prof and a past president of the Texas Institute of Letters, published in the Texas Monthly (May 2005), pretty much capture my sense of it:

" Why do you think people write confessional memoirs?
DG: I think they write them to get even, make money, and perhaps undergo some authentic therapeutic/cathartic experience. What do you dislike the most about this subgenre?
DG: I dislike the emphasis on childhood and the woes thereof. Now I know that many people have unhappy childhoods, but I much prefer to read biographies and autobiographies of adults who have accomplished something (whether good or bad) in their lives. I dislike reading about passive suffering unless it’s a saint’s life... What do you think of “creative nonfiction”? Is it valid to get creative with facts?
DG: I think that creative nonfiction is an excuse for not having to fact-check nonfiction. I think the term is gimmicky. I think the term is something of a crock. As for getting creative with the facts, better ask Jayson Blair, Dan Rather, and a host of other creative nonfiction mavens on that question."

And from Graham's article on the reissue of The Liars' Club with a new Carr introduction, quoted in another Texas Monthly article (May 2005):
"Instead of telling us about memoirs that might have influenced hers, Karr prefers to talk about the book’s success, which is a way of talking about her success. There’s a bootstrap quality to her rise: She hit upon the jackpot idea, the bonanza baby, at a point in her life when she 'needed money for a car so desperately (being a single mom in Syracuse, New York, where bus service is spare and snowfall measurable in yards).'”

Mary Carr is a poet and, I've heard, a very decent one, and her introduction to T.S. Elliot's The Waste Land and Other Writings was well appreciated (I haven't read her stuff). That ought to be good enough.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
angela cook
I forced myself through The Liars Club. I was very disappointed and began to wonder about politics in publishing. I lent it to two friends who shared my feelings. It wasn't anything specific, I mean the writing was okay (every review pointed out that Ms. Karr is a poet and her use of language is so remarkable: I didn't get that) but some of had a slightly invented feel (I'm sure most memoirists must make up or fill in some blanks with invention) and came across as slightly self-involved. Can't hold a candle to 'Angela's Ashes' or 'Bastard out of Carolina', which it more closely resembles.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jennifer day
I was born and raised in the same part of Texas at about the same time. It was an eye opening experience to find that just a few miles from where I as living someone else was living such a chaotic life. It made me thankful for stable and reliable parents. It's a story about a survivior who can now face life with humor.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
trish albright
As an avid memoir reader, I was very pleased with Stephen King's recommendation (in the introduction of another book) to read Mary Karr's The Liars' Club. Karr has a unique and captivating way with words. She tells her life with much detail and fervor. It is hard to put this book down, and having read all of her books, I believe it is her best. I haven't found any other writer who I enjoy more. The only down side is, she's only written three books.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emily walker
Mary Karr's poignant tale from her life is filled with pain, but she tells it with the humor of a stand-up comic and the deftness of a poet. Growing up with two alcoholic parents who might have maimed and scarred a lesser person, the author was exposed to situations that only honed her wit and feistiness. Yet, Mary's affection for this flawed and lovable couple--despite their weaknesses and failings--shines through. This book has replaced all others as my absolute favorite.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sohini banerjee
Mary Karr handles the too-done subject of dysfunctional families with refreshing humor, grace and poetry. Though her anger is evident, it's not the main focus of the memoir nor is there the ever pervasive feeling of self pity that is found in similar books. The story is never without feeling though and her descriptions are lush and poetic. As soon as I finished reading "The Liar's Club" I turned to the first page and read it again. What better reccommendation is there?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I can't say enough good things about this book. The story of Mary Karr's childhood is absolutely gripping. She tells her story of growing up in Texas and Colorado with her completely dysfunctional family, and keeps the reader engrossed in her story and laughing most of the way! Mary Karr's writing style is so descriptive and poetic. I can't wait to read the follow-up to this book, Cherry.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
april forker
This book is well-written and very hard to put down. However, I did not find this book humorous in the least. The awful incidents of sexual abuse the narrator faced left me feeling depressed for a week. Also, the "down home Texas" prose got pretty corny after the first few pages.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sky bray
Mary Karr's writing is beautifully poetic, simple, yet amazingly eloquent. This book is a treasure. Not only because it's so well-written, but because of the personal nature of it.
Karr doesn't allow me to feel like I'm imposing on her private memories. She is only being open and true to those memories. This approach only draws respect from the reader.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
matthew torpy
All the reviewers here have picked the bones clean on this work; so I'm going for the Bottom Line.

While Mary's story is both very entertaining and very disturbing, it's the flow that matters. This woman "can really put some words together." Reading her work is sheer joy. Genius. You can't put it down. A book NOT to be forgotten. Highly Recommended !!!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
christina youssi
Mary Karr will sweep you up into this and have you talking with a twang. One of those 'cant put it down' books, fast, easy read. Subject matter is not for everybody, Emotions will be at full throttle.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
I'm about a third of the way through this book and just don't think I can finish it. It needed better editing. There is too much rambling. I like how honest she is, but it's just not written well enough to hold my attention.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I found the book to be simple and boring. The writing is not bad by any means, but it certainly could be improved with more intersting and less mundane content. My mind constantly wondered as I read through the pages. I found myself skimming through redundant, irrelevant passages. Honestly, I couldn't even finish it. For anyone looking to read a proper memoir, I'd recommend The Glass Castle as a fine example that depicts a far more fascinating childhood.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rosa maria
I read this book when it was first published; and re-read it this week for a book club discussion of "reader's choice." Mary Karr is a poet with a hard-knock childhood. Is it any wonder she wrote a memoir that is beyond belief in every sense? The sentences jump off the page. Oh, that I could write like this.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ximena hernandez
This book sets a precedent for all memoir writers and readers.It is one of the finest of it's genre.Tragic,funny,heartbreaking and hopeful,it dipels the American myth of functional happy childhoods.The only problem will be the pursuit to find comparable books once you have read this one.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Mary Karr give us THE LIAR'S CLUB and very very good memoir of growing up in tough times and yet achieving. I highly recommend the very special tale about growing up in Texas, full of wit and very poignant memories. Read it and judge for yourself. Wonderful.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
darren king
I'm only half way finished with the book, and am thoroughly enjoying it. Karr's use of words is refreshing and lyrical. She writes about the ordinary in an extraordinary way, making even the most horrible scenes seem beautiful. But what has struck me the most is the unbelievability of it all (for example, there is no Leechfield, TX). Like her father, is she just telling us a big lie? Have we the readers joined the Liar's Club? True or not, there is no doubt that Karr is a captivating story-teller.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kiky lestari
After growing up in Southeast Texas I feel as if Mary Karr could have been a neighbor of mine. I love the details that she has retained about her surroundings and the events of her youth. The book is very well written. I couldn't put it down until I was finished.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
seth wilpan
Not since I read Nabokov's "Speak, Memory" have I been so moved by a memoir. Karr should be recognized as one of the most intelligent authors of the late 20th Century. A must-have book for memoir enthusiasts. Truly engaging!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
katie hall
This is a coming of age memoir about a young girl growing up in what most would consider to be a dysfunctional family. The family itself, however, cares about each other in their own offbeat way. Proof of the power of love, the book is humorous and touching at the same time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
(I picked up this book due to its being on Stephen King's On Writing appendices' recommended booklist.) The author is consistently true to the writer's maxim of "show me, don't tell me." Her excerpts of other works to summarize the perspective and subject are on target.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kim p
Mary Kerr tells her story and while we are reading it we might be changing the names, places, character defects, to read like our own. It brought back the child in me and also the fact that some of us don"t have to get lost along lifes way. We just need to tell and then laugh a lot.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
I have just completed reading part I of this book and I am finding it all very hard to believe. I do not believe that a 7 year old can have as much psychological insight into a situation as Mary Karr claims she did when she was 7, not to mention an adult sense of humor. All in all, the gist of her life-story may very well be true, but to me, it seems like Mary Karr has made up all the little details she write about in her book. It is also very very prosaic, and it pales in comparision to Frank McCourt's beautiful poetic memoir.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
You'll have to search the bookshelves of American literature long and hard to find a better wordsmith than Mary Karr. An entertaining and captivating story added to Karr's exceptional writing ability, places LIAR'S CLUB atop the must-read list of any book lover.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
carol evans
One of the best reads! She writes like a real person. It was just like being in her mind as a child. Brought back lots of feelings & thoughts from my childhood. I enjoyed Cherry, also. I would buy any book written by Mary Karr!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I've soldiered my way through nearly half of this book. I'm not sure I'll make it all the way, although I suspect I will out of sheer obligation to the person who loaned it to me. I'd like to give it more than one star, but I really cannot.

I think I'm supposed to find it funny or engaging. I don't. Although it describes a lot of severe neglect, parental alcoholism, etc. I find it surprisingly boring. I'm finding it dull because it mostly just seems to meander aimlessly. It consists of stream-of-conscious recollections of a young child, interspersed with her older sister's interpretations of the same events. I do admire the family's willingness to give each other a voice.

My family has a totally dark sense of humour. I've often wondered if would be possible to recount experiences of abuse, neglect and dysfunction with the humour that got my siblings and I through it all. Mary Karr has given it about the best shot I can imagine, but it's just not working for me. I'm trying hard to like it, but it's not happening for me. The endless recounting of disconnected anecdotes quickly became boring. And in the end, this stuff simply isn't funny.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
harper reed
Mary Karr knocks it out of the park with "The Liars' Club." It is hilarious, depressing, and massively intriguing. I have met Karr in person and I was astonished at what a well rounded grown-up she is. After having a childhood like the one she chronicles in TLC, I'm not sure I'd be so sane!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
lisa ann
I found this book to be difficult to read and finish, not necessarily for the subject matter, but her style of writing just doesn't flow naturally to me (felt the same about "Lit" which I actually read before "The Liars' Club"). And reading about the sexual act forced upon the author when she was 8 years old made me feel sickened and dirty. I definitely do not recommend this book. As others have written, "The Glass Castle" is a much, much better book in this genre.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andrea steiner
i just finished reading the liar's club a few minutes ago- my first impulse was to run to the computer to encourage others to go and get it (if they haven't already). everything you've heard is true- this book is incredibly engaging AND incredibly well written.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
bethany whiteley
I must be the only one who didn't like this book. I felt it was written in a one-tone, endless stream of the bad events and bad people in her life. Not one good thing or good person.

Didn't pack any emotional wallop because she didn't seem to react to the bad things that happened to her. Now maybe she had to be that way in order to survive, but it didn't make for interesting reading. It was hard to sympathize with her because she had no reaction herself to all these traumas.

It's unbelievable that she and her sister turned out as well as they did, but I found myself not caring about them and therefore, not caring about this book.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
amy elliott
As an author, you want to have a compelling story to tell, or, absent that, a compelling way with words. This author has been gifted with neither. Boring. Spectacularly so. I read about 4 books a month in various genres, and I can't remember the last time a book so thoroughly bored me.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I enjoyed this rather shocking memoir. It certainly had a surprising amount of mystery and a riveting "plot" for a non-fiction memoir! Honestly, many of the actions described seemed more within the realm of fiction than real life. The relationships described certainly took some surprising turns as well. It definitely was one of the more dramatic memoirs that I have ever read!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
denis ananev
A collection of memories from an emotionally abused child in Texas; not funny, not insightful, nothing to be gained from plodding through endless pages. I read half the book, skipped through the rest and was very glad I threw it away and stopped wasting time attempting to glean some insights from it.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
This book was all but interesting to read. I had such a difficult time finishing this book, which was for class. I found myself skipping over paragraphs many times and not missing a thing. I had to make myself finish this book. This is one of the most boring, poorly written, and un-interesting books I have ever read.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
soheil dowlatshahi
This book was assigned in a class of mine. I quit at page 70 and that includes the exorbitant amount of paragraphs I skipped over. Receiving an A for the assignment was not worth putting myself through the excruciation of attempting to finish that book. There were 50 people in my class and 48 of them just adored this book. So began my obsession with hating it. I cannot tell you why my hatred is so intense, but it is. Each reader is entitled to his/her own opinion and just because I'm not some published author does not mean my statements are illegitimate. Besides, it seems everyone can get published nowadays so it's really NO BIG DEAL if you have published work.

With that being said, I cannot begin to imagine why this book was assigned in my class. It's called a memoir, yet reads pure fiction to me. I lost my trust in her in the first 10 pages, so why should I believe anything written in it? I don't even believe the basic story of it, because if she exaggerated or lied about some things, then I'll assume she lied about all of it. I cannot describe what happened last week the way she described what happened 30 years ago. Why go into such painfully exact detail of an article of clothing or the shucking of a peanut (Thank you to the reviewer who said that.. it made me smile)? I felt used and abused while reading this. Used because she's using me for free therapy - her ride on the Whambulance must never make a stop. Abused because my mind was in so much pain. It even asked me, "What did I do to deserve this?" I'm an all-A's student and I found myself giving up an A just to save myself from reading any further into this "book." It's bound and it's got pages with text... so I guess it's technically called a book.

98% percent of people love this book. Therefore, I question 98% of society. If you enjoyed this book, please, after writing me a comment on how "stupid" I am because I don't have your taste in literature... sit down and truly ask yourself WHY you enjoyed this book.

Thank You,
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Mary Karr shhots from the hip, creating a superficial narrative that expounds a kind of confession. People like this-- that is, average readers. Set out in the world she claims, in Book World(2008) Bill Matthews beat brain cancer by having a heart atack-- (lie) She also misspeaks regarding Keats(Book World 2008)-(liar) As I said, she shoots from the hip-- in no way is an academic, does not check her sources, writes anything she wants, because, perhaps, she has branded herself a liar already. Her work is, frankly, weak, poems and prose. Those of you who "love" it should reach higher in regrd to your reading. Or not. Stay on the low plain of writing like Mary Karr's.From what Kevin saio
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
holly booms walsh
If you are a fan of child rape then this is the book for you. Otherwise you may want to try something a little lighter. Briged Jones Diary is good for a few laughs. Anything by Terry Pratchett is amusing.
Please RateThe Liars' Club: A Memoir
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