The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait, by Blake Bailey *****

Blake Bailey is one hell of a writer. In this memoir of a family that is first twisted and then broken, he has given of himself in a way that is impossible to measure. It is a powerhouse of a memoir, a beacon that starts out distant and becomes gradually more focused and immediate in a way only a master of the genre can do. I feel fortunate for having been lucky enough to catch a glimpse free and in advance, courtesy of his publisher and the Goodreads.com first reads program. If you are drawn to haunting, searingly evocative memoirs, I recommend you go out and get a copy for yourself. You won’t forget this one.

In the beginning, he is so droll that I mistakenly dropped this story onto my “humor” shelf. It begins light, as childhood tends to be in spite of everything, and gradually, not unlike the “Clouds” he uses to end his story, it darkens, at first almost imperceptibly, then in a way that builds until the reader sits up, sits back (perhaps like me) to say, “Oh HELL no!” or, “Did that just happen?”

It did. And when you think about it, how could it be otherwise?

It is not just a good read, but also a damning indictment of the so-called justice system in the USA. How much human potential has been wasted in funding and resorting to incarceration when mental health care is so badly needed for so many?

I have a couple of quotations I had considered using, but why should I do that when I recommend that you read it yourself? It would ruin part of the discovery for you.

The silence when he finishes is thunderous and deafening.

 

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