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Verena Krebs (Germany)

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Mother's Ruin: The Extraordinary True Story of How Alcohol Destroys a Family
Mother's Ruin: The Extraordinary True Story of How Alcohol Destroys a Family
by Nicola Barry
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Read, 6 Aug. 2007
A long train journey last week finally afforded me the much needed free time to read "Mother's Ruin", a book that had been recommended to me by a dear friend. Although the synopsis of "Mother's Ruin" might not make it sound like an "easy" read; and the subject of the book - the, as one should guess, excruciatingly painful tale of how a whole family is destroyed by alcohol - appear even alarming, I was surprised to find it an exceptionally good tale.
My saying that I truly enjoyed reading "Mother's Ruin" is mostly due to it's author, the fabulous Nicola Barry. Some may already know her smart but brilliantly witted columns, and her first novel breathes the same spirit of humor, sarcasm, intelligence and a gift for the written word.

I won't bother to summarize the contents at length since there's already one on this site - it suffices to say that "Mother's Ruin" is an autobiographical novel, dealing with the childhood and further life of Nicola Barry herself, who grew up amidst a family that was perfectly "middle class and normal" to the outside, but coming undone due to alcohol and neglect on the inside.

It is a truly deeply moving tale, never self-pitying or maudlinly soppy, at no time abusing and judging. Nicola's world and her narration knows no black-and-white painting, through her eye-catching non-linear style of writing she creates an all-embracing feeling for the story and it's characters. In "Mother's Ruin" Barry decides to leave that strictly linear timeframe that makes most books of this genre so dire a read - and that's just genius. It doesn't matter, for example, that halfway through the book she starts over with an episode taking place in her early childhood just after she'd told us about her days in the boarding school. It's like a kind of puzzle, small pieces of a life coming together to form a complex, very heterogeneous life - the way every full and many-sided life probably is, I guess. This way she manages to really capture the readers' interest -- and I for my part felt myself reacting and even interacting with the story, because you start to recall what you've already read and know and slowly start to fill in the blanks of this life and character yourself.

"Mother's Ruin" therefore is, to me, an exceptional tale written by a gifted and truly strong and - considering the dire autobiographic aspects - courageous author, who was brave enough to finally broach the much kept quiet issue of alcohol disabuse and parental neglect, which self-evidently are not and cannot be confined to any class or social group but can occur everywhere around us.

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