rating: 5 of 5 stars
This may sound counterintuitive, but because I want to encourage readership, I’m going to write a bad review of a good book. Or, perhaps, a plain, boring review isn’t all bad. Simple words can be good. Especially if they are words of praise.
Being somewhat of a “memoir connoisseur,” as of late, I have come to instantly categorize most memoirs into particular categories. There is the Wrecked Home Life/Horrific Childhood memoir (think A Child Called It or Angela’s Ashes or even A Long Way Gone). There is the Weird Parents memoir (Running With Scissors or The Glass Castle are good examples). There is the Self Abuse/Comeback memoir (Dirty Jersey, Wasted, Lucky, amongst countless others). And of course there are always just the plain old-fashioned story-memoirs like Cherry. Once you’ve read one within a category, it’s hard—the next time you pick up a memoir that seems to fit that category—not to feel like you’ve already read it. Kind of like eating spaghetti the very next night after you had linguini; you know they’re not the same, but they’re so darned similar!
Once In a House On Fire fits into several of these categories. It tells the story of an unstable childhood; of abusive, codependent parents; of a young girl required to grow up long before she should have; and of her conquest over these hardships. This is the formula of every marketable memoir. Yet somehow Andrea Ashworth tells her particular story is with such impeccable candor, with such insight into character psychology, and without being either overly explanatory or impossibly vague, that it remains unique unto itself. (Of course, I may be partial to the special treat of British dialect, as well. However, the language—no matter the dialect—has to be consistent and convincing to impress me, and Ashworth’s words are both of these things and more!)
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