cover image Burn Down the Ground

Burn Down the Ground

Kambri Crews. Villard, $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-345-51602-2

In her intensely readable memoir, Crews, who owns a PR company in New York City, paints a vivid portrait of an impoverished childhood in rural Texas with hearing-impaired parents, her father who’s her hero turned monster. For the family, life is so hardscrabble that at one point they have to live in the shed once home to her horse. Despite many such moments, they love their pioneering Little House days without indoor plumbing or electricity. Crews even has her own Pa Ingalls, a craftsman father who rebuilds a bridge connecting their isolated hamlet to the outside world. “In my eyes, he was Daniel Boone, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ben Franklin, and Elvis Presley all rolled into one.” But underneath her idyllic early years, as her extremely protective mother comes to reveal in pieces, her father has a ballooning dark side sparked by raging frustration and alcoholism. Arrests, womanizing, and a mysterious bruise on her mother’s cheek set the harrowing stage for Crews’s adolescence. When she is in high school, the escalating violence sets off a cataclysmic chain of events and her dad ends up in prison for attempted murder. Crews finds solace in a boyfriend, marries before she graduates, and plots her getaway from Texas and her fractured family. But she is left with conflicted memories of a man she once adored and came to fear. Finally, it’s the lingering recollections of a loving father that Crews is able to hold onto. (Mar.)