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Lies My Mother Never Told Me: A Memoir

1 rating: 5.0
a book by Kaylie Jones

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Author: Kaylie Jones
Genre: Biography & Memoirs
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Published: August 25, 2009
1 review about Lies My Mother Never Told Me: A Memoir


  • Aug 12, 2009
  • by

 We've often heard that privilege is paired with pain, and that has certainly been true in the life of Kaylie Jones, daughter of acclaimed novelist James Jones (From Here To Eternity, The thin Red Line).  She writes with searing honesty, apparently wihholding nothing. nothing.  In fact, at times the reader may think she reveals too much simply because it would seem that revisiting some things would hurt too much.  Yet, in the end,  after lancing these painful memories, releasing the poisons she emerges stronger than she had ever dreamed.

 Born in Paris she lived in a sumptuous apartment with her father, her beautiful mother, Gloria, and adopted brother, Jamie.  The centerpiece in that apartment was an antique 18th century carved wooden pulpit used as a bar.  To her father this was a great irony , his way of thumbing his nose at his Christian forebears, "...all of it—the hypocrisy, the sexual repression, and the beatings his mother had given him in the name of God."

 Gloria did not physically abuse Kaylie, yet she ravaged her emotionally telling the child, "You're a mean, spoiled ugly girl.  You bore me to death.  I can't wait till you grow up."  When Kaylie did grow, there was more vitriol, "You're a whore, you know that?  Your father would be ashamed of you."  The verbal abuse never ended for as long as Gloria lived.

 Yet, among  friends Gloria could be amusing, a well liked raconteur.  She would hold court among  guests which often included the world's literary lights such as James Baldwin, William Styron, Norman Mailer, Willie Morris, and more.  Parties at the Jones apartment often lasted through the night, often ending only at dawn.  There were few prohibitions in their household save one - no one saw or would admit that both James Jones and Gloria were alcoholics.

 Jones died of congestive heart failure when Kaylie was 16.  She would remember forever sitting by his hospital bed and seeing "her father's green eyes clouding over."  She dedicated herself to his legacy,  read the books he had read, determined to better know the man she so loved.

 At the same time she wanted to escape her mother's contempt and become meaningful for herself, not as a famous person's daughter.  That proved to be a tortuous path as early on she drank far too much, and in time was suffering blackouts.  She was sleeping with the wrong people, and eventually married the wrong man.  It was only after years of searching and self-recrimination that she was able to admit that she too was an alcoholic, and take her first steps on the road to recovery.

 For the most part, Lies My Mother Never Told Me is not a happy memoir.  In a day when many bury  their family secrets this book is remarkable for its candor, the author is unsparing of others and most of all herself.  Many struggle in life but few as mightily as Kaylie, thus we find ourselves rejoicing in her victory yet saddened by what she suffered to achieve it.

 - Gail Cooke

lies my mother never told me

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