Pretty: a memoir
A charmed life.
That is what strangers thought when they looked at little Karen, a beautiful child from a loving family, growing up without a care in the world.
They did not see the pressure to be perfect. The instability of a family dealing with alcoholism and the euphemistically termed "melancholy." The risks a growing child, a young lady, would take to feel that she was something more.
The raw honesty of The Glass Castle meets the glamour of 1950s Hollywood in Karen's journey to break free of PRETTY.
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". . . I wanted to be a great dramatic actress--but I couldn't. I wasn't good enough--smart enough--pretty enough."
Williams recalls the moment in circa 1955 that her family life split. Her mother's bold decision to leave her husband and take Williams and her sisters, Susan and Gretchen, changes everything. The "urban sprawl" of California is far different from the familiar, isolated mountain home in Grand Junction, Colorado. They eventually settle in the "small and peaceful" town of Ojai, where Williams witnesses her mother's positive transformation. As Williams fondly remembers her childhood in Grand Junction, she comes to terms with living in the shadow of her fragile mother's anger and her gloomy father's propensity for damage.
Juxtaposing her life in Grand Junction with her life in California, Williams recounts the guilt of a personal health decision and always trying to understand why she is "bad" even when she tries to be good, along with how she strives to live up to the "pretty girl" who once made her father proud and struggles to reconcile with her free-spirited mother's disinterest in being "ordinary." She examines her parents' complex "silent marriage" and how it affects Williams and her sisters in ways that are only fully understood years later. Through all of this, Williams recounts relationships in her life, nightmares, glamorous aspirations, loves and losses, and emergence into womanhood while overcoming unresolved insecurities.
This is an honest and vivid memoir, and Williams portrays life in the 1950s as realistically and faithfully as she can. One can imagine the smiling faces with "cigarettes and their iced bourbons," hiding deep traumas and stigmas of the times. Here, Williams confidently discusses painful truths about happiness and how we achieve it. It is a commentary on the afflictions of childhood and how we attain dreams and learn from mistakes. It is an assured read from an Eric Hoffer Award-winning author and one that readers won't forget.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review