Gloria Norris' KooKooLand is a memoir written on the edge of a knife blade. Chilling, intensely moving, and darkly funny, it cuts to the heart and soul of a troubled American family and announces the arrival of a startlingly original voice.
Gloria Norris grew up in the projects of Manchester, New Hampshire, with her parents; her sister, Virginia; and her cat, Sylvester. A snapshot might show a happy young family, but only a dummkopf would buy that.
Nine-year-old Gloria is gutsy and wisecracking. Her father, Jimmy, all dazzle and danger, is often on the far side of the law and makes his own rules - which everyone else better follow. Gloria's mom, Shirley, tries not to rock the boat, Virginia unwisely defies Jimmy, and Gloria fashions herself into his sidekick - the son he never had.
Jimmy takes Gloria everywhere. Hunting; to the racetrack; to slasher movies; and to his parents' dingy bar, a hole-in-the-wall with pickled eggs and pickled alkies. But it's at Hank Piasecny's gun shop that Gloria meets the person who will change her life. While Hank and Jimmy trade good-humored insults, Gloria comes under the spell of Hank's college-age daughter, Susan. Brilliant, pretty, kind, and ambitious, Susan is everything Gloria longs to be - and can be, provided she dreams big and aces third grade like Susan tells her to.
But one night a brutal act changes the courses of all their lives. The story that unfolds is a profound portrait of how violence echoes through a family and through a community. From the tragedy Gloria finds a way to carve out a future on her own terms and ends up just where she wants to be.
Gripping and unforgettable, KooKooLand is a triumph.
©2016 Gloria Norris (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
I grew up in Manchester so this book was very interesting but to my book club friends it was a shocking book.
At times I had to remind myself that this was a true story, when I did I needed to take a break and muster the strength to continue. It took me places I didn't want to be but I felt I needed to "be there" for Norris. Her masterful narration let me know it was going to be OK. A must read!
Shirley. Bless her heart! I have been where she existed. Her only way out was years beyond. Yet, she did the best she could, with the tools she knew how to use.
There were hundreds, literally. But every occasion involving the snow globe.....my heart would race and I would tell myself, "This is it! It's going to happen!" That subject on yearning for the stories in our heads vs reality struck me in my heart.
Every time Gloria's light either dimmed, or went out. So very painful.
The author's tone, the way she learned to survive, her allegiances to dysfunction as a kid being all that she knew, the family words (Dumkoff, Dracula, etc..) and rules to live by (i.e. 'Leave it on a stone wall...') Some of them were meant to dampen the fighting spirit at times, and others they were so familiar that they were comforting.
This book had me from the first page. I felt deep sorrow, desperation, love, the essence of family, anger, a whole gamut of emotions-except happiness. By the time that came, I was too wrung out.
Well told! Congratulations!
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