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.
©2016 Ariel Leve (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By FrenchTeacher on 25-03-18

Strangely written

The author writes damningly about her extrovert and charismatic mother, who you can't help but root for. The author clearly hated the noise and lack of rules as a young introvert, but the way she dismisses and treats her mother when older seems to have a lack of grace and cruel.

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5 out of 5 stars
By jackie on 29-08-16

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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Lori Rees on 18-06-16

Beautifully written memoir

This is personal memoir at its best. The story is sad, tragic, funny, hopeful. The writing is excellent and the author clearly shows the emotional pain she has endured. It's not all maudlin. The author also paints a picture of healthy adults, and children, in her life. I loved the scenes of New York, the name-dropping, and her life overseas.

Martha Plimpton's narration is wonderful and was a perfect choice. All the best to the author and her mother.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Ann Eliza Sweeney on 02-07-16

It's a pretty good book. Not the best not the worst.

I love this type of book but the writer comes off a little spoiled. She DID have a terrible mom. And she was neglected by her mom but let's get real here. A lot of us have had it wayyyyy worse and didn't have the loving nanny or penthouse in NYC. I enjoyed listening to the stories but when she starts going to hospitals asking if she is brain damaged I couldn't help but feel annoyed.
Over all it's worth a credit . The glass castle is a much better book about a messed up childhood. If you had one credit to use I would use it for the Glass castle. If you have read that then get this book bc it's good too. But it smacks of poor little rich girl.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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