cover image The Big Hurt: A Memoir

The Big Hurt: A Memoir

Erika Schickel. Hachette, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-306-92505-4

In this stirring if shaggy memoir, Schickel (You’re Not the Boss of Me) looks back at her tumultuous coming-of-age, first as a troubled youth in the 1970s and later in her 40s. She anchors her story with two crucial events: her expulsion from a boarding school in 1982—for having sex with her teacher at age 18—and her midlife affair with crime novelist Sam Spade, which ended her marriage. During a 2009 tryst with Spade, she asks: “What if every decision I had made since 1982 was built on the faulty premise that I was a ‘bad girl’? What if... I had been a very hurt girl trying to survive in a predatory world?” In vignettes that move back and forth in time, Schickel delves into moments in which she felt lonely and abused, as the daughter of largely absent parents—Richard Schickel, a film critic for Time, and novelist Julia Whedon—a victim of “sexual predation” by her teacher, and a woman rediscovering herself after “twenty years of monogamy... and roasting free-range chickens.” While the many flashbacks can become tiresome, the probing examination of love and acceptance crackles with intensity. Schickel’s raw honesty makes this hard to put down. Agent: Laura Nolan, Aevitas Creative. (Aug.)