Throughout this memoir of her Texas childhood, Mary Kerr revisits her relationship with both her parents. From her adult perspective, she struggles to understand them as people and not just as parents. Her relationship with her mother is particularly problematic as it typically is the most nurturing relationship a child...
will have. The recurring sense of betrayal and abandonment that Mary continues to experience is a theme to which she insists the reader return alongside her.
Although the young Mary had ideas that her mother was different than other mothers, she lacked the knowledge and vocabulary to identify comprehend her mother's difference. On the occasion of the fire, she had an epiphany. The violence of her mother's action, the presence and judgment of the doctor, and the removal of her mother from their home combined to provide a sudden, clear message: her mother was Nervous; things were Not Right.
Karr begins the book with this particular story because it was such a clear road mark on her journey to understanding her childhood.