07 June 2011
My Thoughts on Kelle Groom, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl
Title: I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl
Author: Kelle Groom
Publisher: Free Press (Simon and Schuster)
Where I got it: I received a copy from the publisher via Free Press Blog Tours
Kelle Groom's memoir tells more than one story. It tells the story of her struggle with alcoholism that begins when she is in her early adolescence. It tells the story of giving away her child, and then losing him again, this time for good. And finally, it tells the story of a town and the past that might be making its people sick.
Kelle Groom is a poet and that fact is obvious in her prose. Her language is abstract and often strange, its poetics making this a different sort of read than the typical memoir. Each of Groom's chapters seeems to tell a full story, making the movement of the book more circular than forward. And yet I did feel propelled by it as I read, as each new retelling opened new windows into the aging and maturing Kelle.
I wasn't sure that I wanted to read Kelle Groom's memoir, honestly. I have a case of "memoir fatigue." I don't think that Groom has much to say that hasn't been said about addiction struggles, and I found her attempts to investigate the role of environmental factors in her son's death to be intriguing at first, but ultimately a disappointing side plot. In the end though, the book was a quick and relatively engaging read for me. What I did find unique and refreshing was Groom's voice. She resists (mostly) the impulse to universalize her experience, and keeps it in the realm of the poetic and personal. This is Groom's story and she doesn't claim that it is anything else. As I read, I felt that I was discovering Groom as she discovered herself. Although I still am wary of memoir at the moment, I would happily check out Groom's poetry. If you are not tired of memoir, this certainly has something to add to the genre even if what it adds isn't the story itself.