by Julie HaleJune, 2007
Antrim, author of three novels, offers his first memoir with this moving, beautifully written account of life in a troubled family. The focus here is on the author's relationship with his mother, Louanne, an alcoholic whose sickness consumed the energy of everyone around her. Louanne's death in 2000 sparked Antrim's reminiscences, and over the course of seven loosely linked chapters, he recounts his attempts to bounce back from his damaged upbringing. Growing as a writer and embarking on relationships of his own, Antrim realizes that his mother has influenced every aspect of his life. In a particularly revealing section that focuses on Louanne's talent as a seamstress, Antrim writes about an odd kimono she created a piece only she could have produced, reflective of her inner demons, featuring strange birds and potpourri pouches. As Louanne's final decline becomes inevitability, Antrim is forced to care for her, and he discovers a new inner resilience an ability to act in the face of loss. Other members of his family, which is scattered across Georgia, Florida and North Carolina, make appearances in the book, including his emotionally distant father. Antrim writes with insight about the contemporary South and the changes that have taken place there in recent decades. This is a dark narrative, full of wisdom and humility, characterized by Antrim's clean prose style and eye for humor.