Subtitled, ‘A Writer Uncovers His Marriages’, this piece of autobiography is a fascinating and compelling insight into the mind and spirit of an American writer.
A reader from outside the sometimes insular and self-congratulatory arena of the USA, I found this memoir accessible, moving, entertaining and surprisingly informative about more than just the author and his wives. The reader is taken deep into the lives of the subjects. All are flawed and most reflect the human condition that prevents us from learning by our own mistakes, let alone those of others. The repeated patterns of ill-advised behaviour echo the lives of so many.
That the author was the instrument of his own downfall is the superficial judgment that first surfaces. But, as he digs deeper and reveals more of his early life, it becomes apparent that he, and almost certainly his wives, suffered from the consequences of inadequate parenting. The account recalled to mind an excellent book on that topic: everyone should read ‘They F**k You Up’, but that’s a different review.
Boyd Lemon is frank, courageous and surprisingly honest about his relationships with women, treating his wives and girlfriends with the unconscious disdain engendered by the values and traditions of the far right. He loathes his job, but is too much in love with the money and what it can buy to break out of the cycle that traps him in unhappiness. Living the American Dream, he is initially blind to the true consequences of an existence led in pursuit of material benefits intended to impress his peers. Does he finally discover the reality? You’ll need to read the book to find out.
There is intimate detail here; the emotional, physical, spiritual and philosophical threads that are woven into his life are untwined and laid before the reader to inspect and examine. I suspect the act of writing this autobiography has been deeply cathartic for him. As a reader, I felt involved, intrigued, irritated, exasperated, excited, hopeful and joyful by turns. This is a ride that takes you high and low and hides none of the ugly details, whilst showing you the delights and wonders life can bring.
I’ve had the book on my Kindle for a while and finally got around to reading it as it popped up next on the list. Although unable to read it all in one go, I was driven to return to it whenever an opportunity presented itself. Anyone interested in the lives of others, curious about writers, involved in a difficult relationship, unsure of their place in the world of work, or simply intrigued by what drives individuals to make the choices they make, will enjoy this book. I recommend it without reservation.