The renowned biographer's unforgettable portrait of a family in ruins - his own.
Meet the Baileys: Burck, a prosperous lawyer once voted the American Legion's "Citizen of the Year" in his tiny hometown of Vinita, Oklahoma; his wife Marlies, who longs to recapture her festive life in Greenwich Village as a pretty young German immigrant, fresh off the boat; their addled son Scott, who repeatedly crashes the family Porsche; and Blake, the younger son, trying to find a way through the storm. "You're gonna be just like me," a drunken Scott taunts him. "You're gonna be worse."
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Blake Bailey has been hailed as "addictively readable" (New York Times) and praised for his ability to capture lives "compellingly and in harrowing detail" (Time). The Splendid Things We Planned is his darkly funny account of growing up in the shadow of an erratic and increasingly dangerous brother, an exhilarating and sometimes harrowing story that culminates in one unforgettable Christmas.
©2014 Blake Bailey (P)2014 Blackstone
This is a difficult book to rate - it is written extremely well, but does not provide the same satisfaction of most masterfully-written memoirs, which shed light on the author's development as a result of what they experience in the memoir. This book is just a very honest, well-written portrayal of Bailey's brother's 30+ year descent into mental illness, and the daily assault on the family as a result. Nobody gets better, and we don't see any development of any of the family members as a result of the unrolling of the brother's life. In the end, I was just depressed and numb - I suppose reflecting how the family felt - but it is not why we read books, and if I were someone experiencing similar circumstances, there would be no help here for me.
Blake Bailey tells the story of his own fractured, but initially picture-perfect, family with brutal honesty and a humility that draws the reader/listener in, brings from them identification and empathy, and also can make one's hearts break or instantly make anger arise. The story is fantasitically woven, and stands out as yet another example of how the absentee, disengaged upper-middle class parents of the 1960s and 1970s created a culture of children who were often battling undiagnosed mental illness and learning problems, but left to their own devices when it came to navigating life. The portrait of the Baileys perfectly shows how the fruits of self-absorption as parents led both not just the Baileys, but thousands of others like them, to spend the next 20 years wondering why their children battled addiction, were unproductive by social norms, or dead before their time. Heartbreaking and engaging, this story is a must-read.
love dysfunctional families in my books.
thumbs up! I was def invested in these characters.
This painful story could be told by tens of thousands of American's of that era. It was the unremarkable, yet intensely painful, tail of addiction and narcissism told in an unflinching and emotionless tone.
I enjoyed the telling of this story. It is a stark account of life with an alcoholic sibling and the ensuing erosion of a family. Made my dysfunctional life seem downright cheerful. I would recommend the book as it is captivating, well-written and memorable.
Family is painful
When Blake tells Scott he has had a picture of the two of them made into a poster and hung it over his bed.
A sense of empathy.
It made me deeply sad.
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