Mary Karr's relationship with her father as recounted in Lit is definitely complicated. On the one hand, she says between her mother and her father, it is her father who wins "the better parent prize"; though both drink excessively, her father is not prone to the violent outbursts her knife-wielding mother experiences. Despite this and his increasing absences during her childhood, she still loves him dearly, and finds that her own storytelling gifts were inspired by his (usually put to use with his drinking buddies).
Over time, Mary Karr realizes that her success as a writer (and her efforts to distance herself emotionally from her past) have somewhat estranged her from her father. In her own words,
“Each of us represented to the other what little we knew of love inside that family, but whoever I’ve turned into has wiped away who I was as a kid, whoever he once loved. Age about 12, I’d ceased to shoot pool and scale fish, stopped tuning in to the Friday night fights after Ali and Liston.”
“I could feel the roots my daddy had grown in me — actual branches in my body. His was the ethos of country folk: people who kept raked dirt yards rather than grassy lawns because growing grass was too much like field work; people who kept the icebox on the porch, plugged in with an extension cord run through a window, so folks driving by would know they had one. I could feel Daddy’s roots in me, but I couldn’t fit him into any version of my life I could concoct.”