cover image I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl: A Memoir

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl: A Memoir

Kelle Groom. Free Press, $23 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4516-1668-2

Groom, a poet (Underwater City, etc.), gave birth to a son at age 19. Her aunt and uncle adopted him, named him Tommy, and took him with them to Massachusetts, where he died of leukemia 14 months later, in 1982. The backstory: Groom began drinking at age 14 ("My role model became the girl in Go Ask Alice"), had her first blackout at 15, was in the throes of alcoholism when she had Tommy. Although Groom tries to stop drinking the year Tommy dies, she's unable; at 20 she was abducted and raped. But by 1984 she's achieved sobriety, found a job, and made friends. Things get better: she finishes college, then grad school, and gets a job she likes at an artists' residency center. Through it all, she wonders about the details of her son's brief life. Groom moves back and forth between present and past, revealing tidbits of who she once was and who she's become. Her writing is a wonderfully compelling mix of simple and lyrical: there are stream-of-consciousness fragments ("Chain-link fence, metal door like on a submarine") and contemplative sentences ("I hoped that by writing about Tommy, I could find him"). (June)