An Abbreviated Life

  • by Ariel Leve
  • Narrated by Martha Plimpton
  • 5 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A beautiful, startling, and candid memoir about growing up without boundaries, in which Ariel Leve recalls with candor and sensitivity the turbulent time she endured as the only child of an unstable poet for a mother and a beloved but largely absent father, and explores the consequences of a psychologically harrowing childhood as she seeks refuge from the past and recovers what was lost.
Ariel Leve grew up in Manhattan with an eccentric mother she describes as "a poet, an artist, a self-appointed troublemaker and attention seeker". Leve learned to become her own parent, taking care of herself and her mother's needs. There would be uncontrolled, impulsive rages followed by denial, disavowed responsibility, and then extreme outpourings of affection. How does a child learn to feel safe in this topsy-turvy world of conditional love?
Leve captures the chaos and lasting impact of a child's life under siege and explores how the coping mechanisms she developed to survive later incapacitated her as an adult. There were material comforts but no emotional safety except for summer visits to her father's home in Southeast Asia - an escape that was terminated after he attempted to gain custody. Following the death of a loving caretaker, a succession of replacements raised Leve - relationships that resulted in intense attachment and loss. It was not until decades later, when Leve moved to the other side of the world, that she could begin to emancipate herself from the past. In a relationship with a man who had children, caring for them yielded clarity of what was missing.
In telling her haunting story, Leve seeks to understand the effects of chronic psychological maltreatment on a child's developing brain and to discover how to build a life for herself that she never dreamed possible: an unabbreviated life.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Refreshingly different

Thoroughly enjoyed the story and the narration. Good, fast-paced, interesting. Loved the short chapters. Struck a lot of chords with me.
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- jackie

Very much recommended

What was one of the most memorable moments of An Abbreviated Life?

I have recommended this book to friends, I think that although it is extreme we can all learn something from it and understand ourselves as well as the people involved.


What about Martha Plimpton’s performance did you like?

She sounds a lot like Carrie Fisher, which is strange. But it suits the material of the book in a good way.


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- Danielle

Book Details

  • Release Date: 14-06-2016
  • Publisher: HarperAudio