Charlie Marie Karr

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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 397

Charlie Marie Karr is Mary's mother. She married seven times including twice to Pete Karr. Her fourth marriage, to an Italian sea captain named Paulo, was the one that first brought her to Leechfield, Texas, where she later met and married Pete Karr.

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Unlike her husband, Charlie Marie is educated and intellectually curious. She spends a lot of her time reading widely in topics such as Russian history and French existentialism. She is also an artist, having studied art in New York's Greenwich Village, and has her own studio in the family home. She also listens to opera.

Charlie Marie's marriage to Pete Karr is happy at first, but they soon fall to fighting. She bitterly regrets leaving New York for the barren landscape of eastern Texas, and she threatens divorce many times. After her mother dies, Charlie Marie starts to drink, which has a bad effect on her already volatile temperament. In Texan parlance, she is considered "nervous," a term that covers a wide range of mental problems. The fights with her husband become more frequent, and eventually she has a mental breakdown. She smashes mirrors and light bulbs in the house, burns the children's clothes and furniture, and threatens them with a knife. As a result, she is taken away and spends a month at a hospital for the mentally ill.

When the family moves to Colorado, Charlie Marie's mental condition does not improve. She drinks to excess and becomes dependent on diet pills. Much of the time she just stays in bed, too depressed to get up. When she and Pete agree to divorce, the children elect to stay with their mother because they think that left alone she would get into serious trouble, whereas Pete could manage on his own. After Pete's departure, Charlie Marie marries Hector, but this marriage is no happier than her former one. When Charlie Marie almost shoots Hector, Mary and Lecia decide they will return to live with their father. However, it is not long before Charlie Marie leaves Hector and returns to live in Texas, eventually remarrying Pete.

At the end of the book, it transpires that the reason for Charlie Marie's chronic mental instability is that Tex and Belinda, her two children from her first marriage, were taken from her by her husband when he walked out on her. She saw these children only once again.

Mary Karr

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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 364

Mary Karr is the narrator of the memoir. She is a resourceful girl who has inherited her father's aggressive temperament and her mother's intelligence. She is dark-haired, unlike her blonde sister, and she looks vaguely Native American, like her father. As a young girl she adores her father and is enthralled by his storytelling at the Liars' Club, which she is allowed to attend. As a child, she cannot help but be influenced by her parents' quarrels, and she and Lecia fantasize about escaping and living somewhere else, such as a shack on the beach or the rest room of a convenience store.

Mary's life includes many traumatic incidents. She is raped by an older boy from the neighborhood when she is seven. She tells no one about it, because she is scared of the consequences of speaking out. In Colorado, when she is no more than nine, she is sexually abused by a babysitter. She also has to witness her parents' constant fighting; her mother's mental breakdown, during which her mother threatens her and Lecia with a knife; and her mother's threatening of Hector with a gun, during which incident Mary and Lecia throw themselves across Hector to protect him.

Not surprisingly, given her family background, Mary learns how to take care of herself physically. Feisty by nature, she acquires a reputation for herself as the worst little girl in the neighborhood. This reputation is sealed when she shoots a BB gun...

(The entire section contains 1769 words.)

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