So-called “blended” families are a complex ecosystem, where kids can play adults against one another and even the goldfish gets a say about who does what on the chore wheel. It’s therefore not so unusual that one family was thrown into disarray by a possessive mutt. Enter Eddie, the Stepdog of the title.
George Hodgman had defined himself by his work as an editor in New York City. Newly out of a job, he returns home to small-town Paris, Missouri, and discovers that his mother, Betty, is in need of full-time care. Their affection and shared humor dance around the unspoken; Hodgman is gay, a fact his parents never acknowledged.
Patton Oswalt’s career has ranged from earnest stand-up comedy to material that requires an encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture to simply follow along. In Silver Screen Fiend: Learning about Life from an Addiction to Film, he describes how a lifelong love of cinema led him from hubris to humility and back on more than one occasion.
“Running a totalitarian regime is simple: tell the people what they’re going to do, shoot the first one to object, and repeat until everyone is on the same page.” Such was life in Ukraine for young Lev Golinkin and his family, and it might have been tolerable had he not also suffered daily beatings in school for being a Jew. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the family fled to Austria where they lived in a refugee hotel before immigrating to the U.S. A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka is the story of that journey and of Golinkin’s struggle to reclaim his identity.
Fond looks back at profound dysfunction have become so commonplace, it’s a wonder there’s not a “crazy parenting” section in bookstores to help the next generation of memoirists get a leg up. At this point, crazy itself is not sufficient reason to publish. In Take This Man, Brando Skyhorse, who won a PEN/Hemingway Award for his first novel (The Madonnas of Echo Park), captures the details of his dysfunctional upbringing with note-perfect language and does so in pursuit of the truth about his family.
When explosions rocked the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, three people were killed and 260 injured, among them Jeff Bauman. Standing with friends to cheer on his girlfriend, who was running in the race, Bauman saw a man whose appearance and demeanor didn’t fit the crowd leave a backpack and walk away. Bauman was about to suggest to his friends that they move farther up the street when the pack exploded, taking both his legs with it. Stronger is Bauman’s account of his injury and recovery, and a tribute to working-class Boston resilience.
Blake Bailey has written notable biographies of authors John Cheever and Richard Yates, both difficult and brilliant men. While he was sifting through their lives, he was also reflecting on his own. The Splendid Things We Planned is the resulting portrait, a story of mental illness and addiction and the difficult orbits they force upon the healthy. It’s also a tribute to one family’s best efforts and inevitable failings.
When Ingrid Ricks' parents divorced, her devout Mormon mother married an abusive creep who made home the last place Ingrid would ever want to be. Her father was a traveling salesman, always chasing down a dream, and when he invited Ingrid to join him on the road for the summer, she jumped at the chance. When their summer plans went sideways, Ingrid was forced to rely on herself for...
Rob Sheffield’s first book, Love Is a Mix Tape, described his first marriage through the songs he and his wife shared, loved and fought over, and ended with her unexpected death from a pulmonary embolism. Turn Around Bright Eyes begins where that book ended, with Rob relocating from Virginia to New York and navigating out of grief and into adulthood via many late nights in karaoke bars....
Journalist and author Katie Hafner kept no secrets where her difficult upbringing was concerned. Moved from place to place with her older sister by their self-involved, alcoholic mother, the two girls were ultimately removed from her custody but remained in touch with her over the years. When her mother fell on hard times in 2009, Hafner decided to forge a new bond by bringing her to San...