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An Abbreviated Life by Ariel Leve

An Abbreviated Life by Ariel Leve
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Ariel Leve’s childhood must have appeared “charmed” from the outside, said Rosamund Urwin in the London Evening Standard. She lived in a Manhattan penthouse with her mother, a famous poet. She attended a posh private school. Yet as she reveals in this “emotionally draining” memoir, her life wasn’t enviable at all. Her mother was tyrannical and prone to extreme mood swings. When she wasn’t neglecting her daughter, she was demonstrating her love by playing games such as “Being Born”, which involved her “lying naked in bed, legs spread” while Leve “curled up between her legs under the sheets”. Much “smarter” than most misery memoirs, this book exposes the self-indulgence of the “cool” parent who claims to be her child’s best friend.

This is a “frequently devastating account of a childhood without boundaries”, said Fiona Sturges in The Guardian. Leve’s recollections, though often “brutal”, are made digestible by the “elegant sparseness of her prose”. And yet the book’s message is ultimately hopeful: becoming de facto stepmother to twin girls has enabled Leve to “escape the horrors of her past”. This is a book “about looking back in order to take the first step forward”.