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KooKooLand by Gloria Norris


by Gloria Norris

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193537,190 (4.5)1

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This amazing author speaks in the voice of her horribly abusive father Jimmy, a bookie, fencer, fisherman, and all around brute. He had a miserable childhood with his smothering Greek family yet is doomed to repeat the same mistakes with his own. He physically and verbally abuses everyone he meets, but Gloria idolizes him and ignores what he has done to her mother Shirley, whom is rarely referred to by Gloria as "Mom" because she is a such a battered slave to Jimmy's odd demands. The very first scene in the book has Jimmy taking the family to see a slasher film "Blood Feast", which is an apt description of what life with Jimmy is like. The family lives in a rundown housing project in Manchester, NH, a cold, ugly, and dead industrial city. As the misery continues, Jimmy's closest friend, a murderous drunk and gun shop owner, destroys his own family, but the tragedy aids Gloria in realizing that she must get out and go to college to escape becoming an awful combination of her horrible father and her miserable, put-upon mother.

Why read it? It captures white working class New England in all its racism, frustration, and never-achieved glory, opening the door for D. Trump and for "Manchester-By-The-Sea". Gloria is a fine mimic and comic writer, and her ultimate success is gratifying to the reader. ( )
  froxgirl | Jan 3, 2017 |
Kookooland by Gloria Norris

If asked to describe this book in one word, it would have to be: "wow!"

Truth is stranger than fiction, as illustrated by this memoir. Gloria not only survived, she thrived (and I was rooting for her the whole way!).

I'm at a loss for words... this was an excellent book, but so difficult to get through. I even had nightmares.

But it was worth it!

Tragic and inspiring at the same time. Brava, Gloria, brava!

I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  GothykMama | Dec 18, 2016 |
KooKooLand was a harrowing, poignant book about growing up poor in Manchester, NH in a family where words were weapons and fists were used to demand absolute obedience. This book is about being terrorized by a racist, small-minded father who drinks, lies, steals and bullies his way through life right up until his death. It is about being unprotected by a beaten-down mother and it is about the captivating spell he cast on his youngest daughter who became tough and compliant to earn her father's favor and stay safe. And yes, to be loved by him as much as he was capable.

There are many memoirs about alcoholism, poverty and violence but what is unique about this memoir is Gloria's voice which is childlike, brave, terrified and completely present. She brings you right in to what it is like to be THAT child, with THAT father and I read straight through the night with my heart hanging outside my body yearning and hoping for this little girl.

Interwoven, and really the dead center of Gloria's story, is her crush on an older girl who seems to be making it. Studious, church-going, kind with her eye on her future, Susan also lives with a violent father. Susan encourages Gloria, lets her know that she can escape her past and urges her to do well in school and move forward. Gloria hangs on to her words, uses her as a model of how her future might be different from her mothers and even tries to believe in God for her. We watch Susan graduate and then go to medical school when tragedy happens. Without giving away too much detail, it is suffice to say Gloria learns that all is not what it seems and the the truth is that it is so hard to move past a violent childhood, sometimes impossible to do so. But for Gloria, after coming to a reckoning about who Susan really is and still with deep love and respect for her, keeps dreaming. What I love about this book is that the ending is completely satisfying. It does not give false hope or give short shrift to the damage and the waste and losses experienced by Gloria and her mother but it does allow us to see that even with that there can be some contentment and possibility of creating a life filled with decency, connection and love.

Thank you to Netgalley and Regent Arts for allowing me to review this book for an honest opinion. ( )
  Karen59 | Jan 30, 2016 |
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As in a tyranny, in an abusive family you either find small ways to dissent, or you rebel and perish, or you decide to survive at all costs. It's the calculus of abuse: What it would cost you to disagree out loud?
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The stone's been cast and blood's thicker than water.  And the sins of the family fall on the daughter... --P.F. Sloan, 1965
For Shirley, Virginia, Susan & Doris And for James
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It was so hot you could die.
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