Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 382
Mary Karr’s memoir The Liars’ Club was published in 1995 and received immediate widespread praise. It won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, and since then has topped bestseller charts, including becoming a New York Times bestseller. Readers and critics admire the The Liars’ Club for Karr’s ability to retell her life...
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Mary Karr’s memoir The Liars’ Club was published in 1995 and received immediate widespread praise. It won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, and since then has topped bestseller charts, including becoming a New York Times bestseller. Readers and critics admire the The Liars’ Club for Karr’s ability to retell her life with vivid recollection. She is considered one of the main causes for the revival of memoirs in the last twenty years. In her memoir, Karr captures the East Texas parlance and writes with the sort of language The New York Times calls “haunting, often exquisite...that resonsate[s] long after a page is turned.”
Through a non-linear format, Karr’s memoir describes her life as she grows up in Leechfield, a town near the Southeast Texas oil fields. She writes about her hectic homelife and how she frequently shuffles with her mother, father, and sister between homes and states.
She is seven years old when the novel opens at a turning point in her life. Her mother, Charlie Marie Moore, is having a nervous breakdown. Charlie is taken to a hospital for the mentally ill while Mary and her hardscrabble nine-year-old sister, Lecia, are taken away by the police. Parts one through three follow Mary as she jumps from one life event to another. She chronicles her father and mother’s histories, her grandmother’s deaths, and her family’s moves between states. The memoir ends with Karr’s father’s stroke and her mother’s confession about the past.
The prevailing motif of the memoir is Mary’s transition from childhood to adulthood and from innocence to experience. Again and again, Mary is forced confront the difficulties of life and emerge a wiser person. She faces the difficulties of the adult world at each stage in her life. She sheds the illusions of childhood, even if the resulting reality is dark and difficult to accept. Karr grapples with this haunting motif by writing about her everyday life with the perceptiveness of a child and the awareness of an adult.
Karr’s memoir runs the gamut from stories of young girls sassing teachers to tragic instances of sexual assault. The novel continues to resonate with readers for its ability to meld the hilarious with the harrowing aspects of human life.