cover image Holler Rat: A Memoir

Holler Rat: A Memoir

Anya Liftig. Abrams, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4197-6300-7

Performance artist Liftig recounts an upbringing caught between two worlds in her searing debut memoir. While Liftig and her younger sister were raised in upper-middle-class Westport, Conn., in the 1980s, their mother came from Ganderbill Holler, Ky., an unincorporated community home to “proud hillbillies, whose most persistent wish was to be left the fuck alone.” When Liftig visited her maternal grandmother, known as Mamaw, in Kentucky, she stepped into a different life: one where gunshots were used to frighten off rats, derelict homes dotted the landscape, and nearly everyone was a blood relation of some kind. Liftig vividly explains her struggle to reconcile her identities (“the problem isn’t keeping my two worlds separate, it’s the chasm that exists between them”) and sheds light on family tensions, as when she matter-of-factly observes that “marrying my father solidified my mother’s escape from poverty. As much as Mamaw loves us, I am old enough to tell that she also resents us.” Liftig, too, ended up marrying a rich man, and the dissolution of their relationship rounds out the narrative. This often somber account is buoyed by Liftig’s genuine love for her family, and draws on age-old questions of nature vs. nurture without devolving into cliché. Readers put off by the sermonizing of Hillbilly Elegy may find this glimpse at Appalachia more illuminating. Agent: Eleanor Jackson, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary. (Aug.)