Growing up in a poor small town in Texas, Mary Karr's family life was flawed by alcoholism, violence, and mental illness. But you don't pity her, and she doesn't pity herself either. A ferocious adoration for her family comes through strongly. The most stunning parts of the book are the situations surrounding her mother's mental illness and the insanity and manic depressive episodes that go along with it. You can feel the child's confusion and love for a mother as she goes on a rampage that she just doesn’t understand. The parents are tremendously self-centered but, in the end you know they love their kids. It is a tribute to Mary Karr and her siblings that they survived and prospered into well adjusted adults with their upbringing.