Trigger warning: the following book and book review involves crime, murder, and abuse.
This memoir came up in a discussion during a past book club, in which we were trying to think of novels that we’d like to read. I took down the title and added it to my Goodreads (shameless plug, add me as a friend!), and then found the audiobook was available on Hoopla through my local library. I thought it would be an interesting read for the month of October, so I dived in.
Perry recounts the horrific night in which her mother Crystal is murdered in the next room. At age twelve, it wasn’t the first night she heard arguing and screaming late at night through her bedroom door…her mother had had a string of unfortunate relationships that involved some loud verbal exchanges. But with a start, Perry realized this was different. Locking herself in her bedroom until all was quiet, she hurried to her mother’s aid only to find that she was too late. Running to a neighbor’s, she called 911 to report the murder.
Only two days prior, young Perry had witnesses a solar eclipse, and she thought it was an omen of good. Two days later, she thought the complete opposite. From then on, everything is split into Before and After. Emotionally distraught, Perry struggled with not only the loss of her beloved mother, but also the terrorizing method of which she lost her. She shares her struggle with the loss and grief in the most heartbreaking prose, but with a determination to overcome in memory of her mother.
Throughout the memoir, Perry relays the details of her mother’s life; what it was like being one of thirteen children, being married at fifteen, her relationship struggles, and being seen through the eyes of her adoring child. Perry also digs into the murder case- how she was questioned like a suspect, how many suspects were out there, how the police struggled to focus on a suspect, how her mother was victimized and even blamed for her fate. It’s absolutely heavy, and I can honestly say it wasn’t an enjoyable audiobook because of how heart wrenching the narration is. I also have to say, I struggled with the narrator, Emily Woo Zeller, who added (in my opinion) additional emotion in her voice, making every sentence extremely dramatic. There was already so much passion and conviction in the prose that I felt the narration was a little over the top.
Overall, I just don’t think I would recommend this memoir. I understand the need for the author to share hers and her mother’s stories- I understand the therapy and cathartics in that. However, it’s a sad, heartbreaking admission that I could not forsee myself telling others to read it. In truth, once you’ve read this memoir, you won’t want to share the sorrow.