Thank You to Regan Arts for providing me with an advanced copy of Gloria Norris' memoir, Kookooland, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT- In her memoir, Kookooland, Gloria Norris details her childhood growing up in New Hampshire in the 1960's. Norris lives in the projects with her parents and her older sister, Virginia. Norris' father, Jimmy, is mentally unstable and the family is ruled by his whims. He can be charming and always has a scheme to support his gambling addiction, but he can also be tyrannical and abusive. Her mother, Shirley, is too fearful to leave him and instead, turns to alcohol and drugs for escape.
As a child, Norris idolizes Susan, the older daughter of Jimmy's friend Hank. Norris' imagination runs wild with ideas of how she can become Susan's best friend and charm the older girl. Her dreams are dashed, when Hank murders Susan's mother and is sent to prison, pushing Norris even further to the edge of Susan's life.
As an adult, Norris reexamines her childhood obsession with Susan and finds parallels in the violence that both of their families experienced. She reconnects with Susan and discovers a person very changed from the girl that she once admired.
LIKE - I can't remember the last time that I read a story with such a strong narrative voice. Norris, as a child picking up on the lingo of her wise-guy father and his friends, was a force. She immediately brought me into her world and taught me some new phrases!
The voice alone would have been enough to make me love Norris' writing, but the story is a powerhouse. There is never a moment that I didn't feel like Norris or her mother/sister, were potentially in danger. There was even a chapter where I was very fearful for the family cat. The danger is always under the surface, making the story tense and a page turner. I could never have anticipated where Norris was going to take me, especially the twist with Susan. Crazy stuff.
This memoir has many layers and Norris is a strong voice speaking out against domestic violence. There is the sad element of Norris still wanting her father's approval, even when she knows that he has been cruel to her and she is trying to break free from him. Also sad, is watching her mom suffer and trying to find the balance between helping her mother and not creating problems with her father, which could result in more retaliation directed towards her mother. It's compelling to see the terrible dysfunction and abuse in Norris' family, but then to realize that it goes up a notch with Susan's story.
DISLIKE- Nothing. It's disturbing and often difficult to read, but Kookooland is a true horror story, one that needs to be shared.
RECOMMEND- Yes. Kookooland is an important and compelling read. This will be the memoir that everyone is buzzing about in 2016. It's a powerhouse.