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The Erratics  By  cover art

The Erratics

By: Vicki Laveau-Harvie
Narrated by: Jacqueline Samuda
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Publisher's summary

Two sisters reckon with their toxic parents through the decline and death of their outlandishly tyrannical mother and with the care of their psychologically terrorized father, all relayed with dark humor and brutal honesty in this award-winning “brilliantly-written memoir... [that] reads like a novel” (best-selling author Margaret Atwood via Twitter).

When her elderly mother is hospitalized unexpectedly, Vicki Laveau-Harvie and her sister travel to their parents' ranch home in Alberta, Canada, to help their father. Estranged from their parents for many years, they are horrified by what they discover on their arrival. For years their mother has camouflaged her manic delusions and savage unpredictability, and over the decades she has managed to shut herself and her husband away from the outside world, systematically starving him and making him a virtual prisoner in his own home.

Rearranging their lives to be the daughters they were never allowed to be, the sisters focus their efforts on helping their father cope with the unending manipulations of their mother and encounter all the pressures that come with caring for elderly parents. And at every step they have to contend with their mother, whose favorite phrase during their childhood was: "I'll get you and you won't even know I'm doing it."

Set against the natural world of the Canadian foothills ("in winter the cold will kill you, nothing personal"), this memoir — at once dark and hopeful — shatters precedents about grief, anger, and family trauma with surprising tenderness and humor.

©2020 Vicki Laveau-Harvie (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“Laveau-Harvie tells the story with laugh-out-loud humor, and tremendous heart and insight. She has a poet’s gift for language, a playwright’s sense of drama and a stand-up comic’s talent for timing. But perhaps most remarkable is the generosity of spirit with which she writes about family trauma . . . Laveau-Harvie does not take herself too seriously, and by holding the reins of her story lightly, she gives us the ride of our lives. The book flows with kinetic energy, wit and wisdom. Upon reaching the last page, I found myself turning to the beginning and starting again, not wanting it to end . . . Laveau-Harvie’s book truly stays with the reader, for the quality of her original and powerful narrative voice.” —Helen Fremont, The New York Times Book Review

“Curiously mesmerizing . . . an outlier in its genre. Think of the vivid portraits of the confounding mothers in Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club, Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? and Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? . . . Laveau-Harvie depicts her mother neither as a riddle to be solved nor as a woman to be understood, but as an implacable act of nature, who must only be survived.” —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times 

"Atmospheric . . . The result—the rare memoir unobsessed with memories—is sometimes infuriating but always enthralling." The New Yorker 

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lacked enough content

I was very excited to read this after hearing an interview with the author on the radio. but I feel like the book didn't deliver. although her mother's hatefulness is evident in the later years when the author returns to care for her father, there are scant examples of the mother's behavior during her growing up years. this makes it very hard to relate. I also didn't care for the fact that she consistently an awkwardly referred to "my sister" and "my sister's partner" without ever naming either. if they preferred not to be named, why not give them fake names and indicate in the author's note that the names have been changed for privacy?

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