True Crimes: A Family Album

Kathryn Harrison. Random House, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6348-2
Harrison (The Kiss) offers 13 essays in this collection, all written over the course of a decade; most have been previously published. The essays are best read in order, as the reader is gradually introduced to the intimate details of Harrison’s life, including an unconventional childhood, an incestuous relationship with her father when she was a young adult, and a mother who left her with aging grandparents and later succumbed to breast cancer. Harrison’s essays range from disturbing to humorous; she’s now married and the mother of three children, and readers will chuckle as she describes the day she came clean about the identity of the tooth fairy. Her relationship with her grandmother is deeply examined, describing how the eccentric woman who cared for her in childhood (and whom she cared for in old age) was both charming and impossible. In the essay “The Unseen Wind,” Harrison remembers secretly observing her elderly grandmother at her mirror; the experience prompts the author to ponder the arc of her own life. In another poignant essay, she chronicles the death of her father-in-law, the man who taught her how to be loved and to love with purity and reverence. Whether discussing motherhood, marriage, pets, or the little and large crimes that families confess or conceal, Harrison writes with authentic curiosity and a thirst to fully understand herself and others. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/2016
Release date: 04/05/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
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