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An intensely emotional and redemptive memoir about a mother's mission to rescue her runaway daughters   After a miserably failed marriage, Debra Gwartney moves with her four young daughters to Eugene, Oregon, for a new job and what she hopes will be a new life for herself and her family. The two oldest, Amanda, 14, and Stephanie, 13, blame their mother for what happened, and An intensely emotional and redemptive memoir about a mother's mission to rescue her runaway daughters   After a miserably failed marriage, Debra Gwartney moves with her four young daughters to Eugene, Oregon, for a new job and what she hopes will be a new life for herself and her family. The two oldest, Amanda, 14, and Stephanie, 13, blame their mother for what happened, and one day the two run off together—to the streets of their own city, then San Francisco, then nowhere to be found. The harrowing subculture of the American runaway, with its random violence, its horrendously dangerous street drugs, and its patchwork of hidden shelters is captured by Gwartney with brilliant intensity in Live Through This as she sets out to find her girls. Though she thought she could hold her family together by love alone, Gwartney recognizes over the course of her search where she failed. It's a testament to her strength—and to the resilience of her daughters—that after several years they are a family again, forged by both forgiveness and love.


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An intensely emotional and redemptive memoir about a mother's mission to rescue her runaway daughters   After a miserably failed marriage, Debra Gwartney moves with her four young daughters to Eugene, Oregon, for a new job and what she hopes will be a new life for herself and her family. The two oldest, Amanda, 14, and Stephanie, 13, blame their mother for what happened, and An intensely emotional and redemptive memoir about a mother's mission to rescue her runaway daughters   After a miserably failed marriage, Debra Gwartney moves with her four young daughters to Eugene, Oregon, for a new job and what she hopes will be a new life for herself and her family. The two oldest, Amanda, 14, and Stephanie, 13, blame their mother for what happened, and one day the two run off together—to the streets of their own city, then San Francisco, then nowhere to be found. The harrowing subculture of the American runaway, with its random violence, its horrendously dangerous street drugs, and its patchwork of hidden shelters is captured by Gwartney with brilliant intensity in Live Through This as she sets out to find her girls. Though she thought she could hold her family together by love alone, Gwartney recognizes over the course of her search where she failed. It's a testament to her strength—and to the resilience of her daughters—that after several years they are a family again, forged by both forgiveness and love.

30 review for Live Through This: A Mother's Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    I'm having a hard time formulating my review of this book, and figuring out how many stars to give it. The truth is, I'm trying very hard not be judgmental of Gwartney. On the one hand, I appreciate her raw honesty, and her ability to see and admit her own mistakes. But man, her mistakes were plenty. And I really don't identify with her attitude toward her children, and children in general, and her approach toward motherhood. The first half of this book should be given to every divorcing couple w I'm having a hard time formulating my review of this book, and figuring out how many stars to give it. The truth is, I'm trying very hard not be judgmental of Gwartney. On the one hand, I appreciate her raw honesty, and her ability to see and admit her own mistakes. But man, her mistakes were plenty. And I really don't identify with her attitude toward her children, and children in general, and her approach toward motherhood. The first half of this book should be given to every divorcing couple with children, and retitled "What Not To Do When Divorcing With Children". Gwartney and her ex made an absolute hot mess of things. They completely lost sight of their children in the face of their own pain and anger. Truly, it's like they couldn't even see their girls. The part that I really couldn't wrap my head around was when one of the girls, at the age of 13, attempted suicide. At no point was there a mention of the parents considering the pain their child was in; and feeling sympathy or empathy for her is apparently a completely foreign concept. There's no discussion of feeling pain over the fact that their baby was in such tremendous pain. Instead, it's all about which parent is to blame, and which parent is the good parent and which is the evil parent. Even when hospital staff come out and tell them that they have got to get it together and learn to work together, and that their attitudes toward each other are making healing impossible, they can't manage to see beyond themselves and to their very needy daughter. It was mind boggling to me to read. Gwartney also talks about how she looked at other runaway teens, many of whom, including one of her own girls, were as young as thirteen. I have a thirteen year old, and I cannot imagine her trying to live on the streets. These are CHILDREN who are clearly in very, very bad situations. Yet Gwartney doesn't look at them with compassion; she sees bad kids doing bad things, and people who help them as people who aid and abet their misbehavior. She fixates, also, on their fashion. I cringed every time she mentioned the unnatural colors her girls and their friends dyed their hair. It was never clear if Gwartney was trying to simply be descriptive, or if she believed that the color and fashion choices were further evidence of the badness of the kids. It all read like the narrative of a woman with very rigid, suburban, conservative ideals who would be barely able to tolerate typical teenage rebellion, let alone the level of rebellion that she faced. And no matter how much danger her children are in, she simply can never let go of her rigidity. Gwartney never tells us about a time when she told her girls "I love you" or "I worry about you" or "I'm scared for you. I want you to be safe." Instead it's all her telling them what they should be doing, judging them, being embarrassed of them. Now I realize that she went to tremendous lengths attempting to chase them down, going from state to state, often chasing needles in haystacks, putting herself in dangerous and scary situations to try to find them. And I realize that she was in a horrible position, with two girls disappeared and two at home to raise, and single and with few resources. She certainly worked very hard for them. On the one hand, I see all that. But the way she always seems to look at them as basically little brats who are just trying her, and the way she can never put aside her anger at her ex in order to better care for them, and the way she could never manage to follow the instructions or recommendations of the various professionals she enlisted for help, it grated on me. As I said, I know that a lot of this book is confessional, and she's seeing and admitting to a good number of mistakes, but frankly, her basic attitude toward children who run away and go to life on the streets never seems to really change. I can't identify, at all. I would say that she's a good writer, but maybe she actually felt all of these things, but didn't manage to portray them. In which case, the writing fell far short. Edit: I knew nothing about this family before reading and reviewing this book. Now that I just googled and read this: http://www.salon.com/2009/03/07/live_... my sympathy for Gwartney is much higher. I wish her tone in his interview had come through more in her book. I would have enjoyed it, and liked her, a lot better.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily Udell

    I wanted to read this memoir since I heard the moving "This American Life" piece focusing on the author and her daughters. I think Gwartney admirably attempted to cop to her own failures as a mother with a straightforward portrayal of her thoughts and motivations, but she left me with a vague lack of sympathy for her plight (was it really any wonder her daughters rebelled so hardcore?). I also found the narrative needlessly choppy; the author was constantly interrupting events with flashbacks th I wanted to read this memoir since I heard the moving "This American Life" piece focusing on the author and her daughters. I think Gwartney admirably attempted to cop to her own failures as a mother with a straightforward portrayal of her thoughts and motivations, but she left me with a vague lack of sympathy for her plight (was it really any wonder her daughters rebelled so hardcore?). I also found the narrative needlessly choppy; the author was constantly interrupting events with flashbacks that were apparently chosen for their symbolic meaning. I found myself skimming some of these passages. In the end, I didn't feel like I really understood any of the characters very deeply (the two younger daughters were completely interchangeable) nor the ultimate meaning of these events in their lives. I was also annoyed at times by Gwartney's propensity to overwrite. All that said, I cheered on the family's efforts toward reconciliation and even shed a few tears at the end. But I think I would have rather read a memoir written by the daughters. Maybe it would have revealed a lot more.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Guenevere

    Live Through This is on shaky ground from the get-go because it is a memoir. Obviously intended to grab readers via its “shocking” content, it is a mother’s story of her two daughters’ ongoing, frightening attempts at total self-destruction. The problem with memoirs is that often the person telling the story is too close to it to speak in any objective way about it—and also that they might not be good writers. This memoir belongs in the hands of only one person and that person needs to be a highl Live Through This is on shaky ground from the get-go because it is a memoir. Obviously intended to grab readers via its “shocking” content, it is a mother’s story of her two daughters’ ongoing, frightening attempts at total self-destruction. The problem with memoirs is that often the person telling the story is too close to it to speak in any objective way about it—and also that they might not be good writers. This memoir belongs in the hands of only one person and that person needs to be a highly trained, really competent therapist who has dealt with extreme cases of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The mother, for all her graphic recitation of events, never once discusses the horrors her daughters went through in any way beyond how they affected HER, how SHE felt, how SHE interpreted. She is pathologically unable to produce any meaningful sense of empathy or pain on the behalf of her children or insight as to who they were and why they made the choices they did—they just seem to be bad girls hell bent on torturing their poor mother—which eventually makes the reader pause and wonder just what’s wrong with this woman? Even as the book moves to the “Reclaimed Love” ending, it is clear that the mother has changed absolutely nothing about herself. There are points where I wanted to throw the book across the room (but I didn’t, Nooks are expensive) and shout at her, “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE GIRLS? I know YOU had pain, we’ve read many pages of that, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?” This book is a testament to personality disorder, and how the disordered person is entirely unable, incapable, of viewing anything in any way except through the lens of their pathology. One Star. I hope her shrink read it, and I hope her daughter’s shrinks are helping them to see how damaged and sick their mother is.

  4. 5 out of 5

    ~Theresa Kennedy~

    This review of Gwarney's memoir "Live Through This" was originally published with The Portland Alliance Newspaper, print edition, in Portland Oregon 2009, and written by author, writer and poet Theresa Griffin Kennedy. Enjoy. "Moving, insightful and socially relevant memoir writing is a difficult endeavor and a monumental challenge for any writer to take on successfully. Few writers are able to write memoir that does not naturally become compromised by the many pitfalls of this dangerous territo This review of Gwarney's memoir "Live Through This" was originally published with The Portland Alliance Newspaper, print edition, in Portland Oregon 2009, and written by author, writer and poet Theresa Griffin Kennedy. Enjoy. "Moving, insightful and socially relevant memoir writing is a difficult endeavor and a monumental challenge for any writer to take on successfully. Few writers are able to write memoir that does not naturally become compromised by the many pitfalls of this dangerous territory of the confessional and often indulgent personal narrative. Debra Gwartney’s book Live Through This: A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love (2009) appears to be one of those memoirs that does not succeed on the simple levels that a good memoir should. Perhaps this book should be re-titled A Mother’s Guide On What Not to Do to Your Teen Daughters. It is definitely a compelling read and from a morbid standpoint, it’s interesting to note the manner that Gwartney goes from one bad self-sabotaging situation to the next with a chilling determination and tenacity toward failure. A manner of determination that confuses and confounds, as in why would someone do that? Where is the empathy for her daughter’s feelings? Where the common sense? Where the kindly maternal instinct to protect, encourage or support the fragile egos of her young daughters? There are many aspects to the book that do indeed confuse, such as the several mechanical errors that this reviewer noticed. The numerous awkward word combinations that simply don’t work; one in the very first paragraph of the book in fact. There are also habitual run-on sentences that become muddied, confused and overly wordy, that will clearly be noticed by others. These mechanical problems make the book a sometimes choppy read with little flow or natural grace. The stories generally go forward in a positive chronological direction, though there are some unexpected flash backs that rather interfere with the flow of information given. Other than a few benign stories of her husband Tom’s antics, getting drunk and urinating into a water storage facility as a college student, being “irresponsible” with few serious details to back that accusation up and other indicators of Gwartney’s growing boredom with her husband, (sexual?) or the manner that he has become “irrelevant” to her, there seems little concrete or valid reason why this woman would so suddenly abandon her husband taking her four young daughters from the only stability or apparent happiness they have ever known. Her husband Tom does not appear to have been unfaithful, nor does he appear to have verbally abused her, emotionally abused her or for that matter physically battered her. He is clearly not some big bad wolf from which she must rescue her children or herself. In fact, he seems sympathetic and likable in the extreme during the entire book; an obviously playful character that appears extremely important, and rightly so, to the two oldest daughters Amanda and Stephanie, as a source of support that is consistently denigrated by their mother as being “childish-irresponsible-dangerous-a risk taker” etc. He is given no credit anywhere in the book for anything, only the unfair and unrealistic assignment of blame. These things, inconsistent and unbalanced as they are do not constitute a completely bad memoir though, because memoir should and does generally involve a process by which mistakes are made, revealed and examined, at which point insight is the expected outcome. What makes this particular memoir difficult to enjoy is the relentless manner in which Gwartney demonstrates so little emotional empathy for others and the apparent lack of any manner of personal insight into her huge personal failings toward her children, as well as her husband Tom-who clearly deserved a warmer and more responsive partner. Each person with whom Gwartney has contact, even those who go out of their way to assist and help her are routinely described in only negative terms that often border on the comically satiric. When the book begins, in the prologue, Gwartney cannot summon any manner of human compassion or kindness but rather feels disgusted and repulsed by a homeless teen girl who is high, smelly, ill and alone on a Portland bus. She asks herself, “Where is even the smallest surge of concern for her? Why do I feel more like slapping than hugging her? What’s wrong with me after all this time?” She goes on to write, “Something tangled and sore remains unsolved in me” (page 3) When the girl asks for spare change Gwartney naturally refuses, given her apparent emotional and/or spiritual miserliness. This seems to be the constant pattern of the book, a refusal to connect with others on any charitable level and a constant fear of the unknown or what could be considered different, socially unacceptable, or looked upon with dis-favor by the conforming majority of mediocre adults. The man who pulls Gwartney out of an overturned car after a serous car accident (and may well have saved her life) is described insultingly as “bare-chested- huge-muscled” with “inky tattoos” on his arms. At no time does she thank him or anyone else for helping her. The police officer from L.A. who helps her find her runaway daughters is described in equally unforgiving and unfair terms, “I noticed then how his ears stuck out from the sides of his head. His neck was too thick to let him button the top of his shirt. Behind him, through his trucks windshield, I saw an air freshener hanging from his review mirror in the shape of a naked woman, her bare breasts in a high salute” (75). The caring professionals and others who appear to genuinely want to offer the best help they can to Gwartney’s two runaway daughters Amanda and Stephanie, are either too fat, too thin, stupid, overly religious or have ugly hair or offensive smelling breath; with stinky breath appearing as a recurring theme to the sensitive olfactory senses of the delicate Gwartney. The woman with whom her ex-husband remarries, Ellen, is described in what can only be an insulting fashion designed to make it appear Gwartney is paying her a compliment when in reality Gwartney is describing her in a way that no woman would appreciate or welcome. “Ellen’s cantaloupe breasts bounced under her skimpy tank top, her peasant skirt flowing from generous hips. I had on a pair of cords, a long sleeved T-shirt, sandals, my usual get-up. No matter how I tried to talk myself out of it, Ellen made me feel like a pencil shaped little kid” (41) This passage seems a compliment to Ellen, but is not. No woman wants to be described as wearing “skimpy” clothes or to have “cantaloupe breasts” or least of all, “generous hips.” In comparison Gwartney is thinner and a “pencil shaped little kid.” In today’s image obsessed, thin obsessed and weight conscious world, the comparison is comical, not very imaginative and also painfully transparent. A compliment wrapped inside a blatant insult and not too hard to figure out in terms of adolescent motive and immature oneupmanship. Gwartney insults all the people who come to her aid, (other than her mother or other family members) and this aspect of the memoir is relentless and consistently offensive. It smacks of a cold elitism that is not hard to notice and exceedingly difficult to stomach. Yes, Gwartney talks about how she misses her daughters, about how she has so obviously made huge mistakes, about how they run off and embrace a self destructive life of self-mutilation, drug use, promiscuous sex, filthy living and homelessness. Yes she asks many questions, such as why did it happen, why is she so rigid, why do her daughters dread being around her, why did it happen to her. Sadly, none of these questions are answered. At any time during the memoir. At no time, does she offer or achieve any manner of insight for the reader to digest, which is the biggest reason she remains so consistently unsympathetic. To someone who has not read the book, you may think, “Wow, this is the story of a great mom, who really loved her kids and just had a lot of bad luck,” but that’s not the real story from beginning, middle to end. For this particular reviewer, what struck me the most was that by the time I had finished reading the book, I had not connected with the memoirist Debra Gwartney in any way. For the simple reason that she seemed too much of a control freak, too rigid emotionally, too fearful, too vindictive, too full of hate, anger, jealousy, resentment, and too cut off and unable to connect in any human manner with real people who deserve respect and compassion. When she wrote at one passage in the book, “I turned around and glared at Ricky because I could,” this being an isolated teen-aged homeless girl, her daughters had befriended, while Gwartney was in her middle thirties and a mother, I knew that at NO time could I relate to this woman in any way. She was hollow; a hollow human being I could never admire, respect or desire to emulate in any fashion. It seemed to me, by the end of the book and from Gwartney’s own simplistic unadorned prose that every accusation made by her two older daughters had essentially been explained to me. No amount of focusing on how clean Gwartney kept her house or the cookies or cinnamon rolls she baked, or the homework she attended to for her kids, or the long hours she worked, or the lessons or activities she arranged for them could alter the fact that she was emotionally cut off from her daughters and completely unable to express genuine love in a relaxed, playful or mature manner. The book is not an enjoyable read. It’s dismal and depressing. It’s a how to manual on what TO do to alienate your daughters and make them flee and flee and flee and flee. It’s a warning to all loving mothers on the importance of allowing our daughters some measure of control, of not stifling or suffocating them by micro-managing every aspect of their lives and then wondering why they can’t stand to be around us. It’s a warning on the importance of not vilifying fathers, on not using children as emotional tampons to be discarded when they are no longer deemed useful, or making children pick sides and of destroying father/daughter relationships with that toxic and ultimately selfish self-serving dynamic. The book is important for many reasons and there are some moments that are genuinely moving if only because they illustrate the daughters self-destructive tendencies and despair so clearly, but it is not, at any stage an inspirational book, nor does it have the language of an elegant writer with a facility for poetic description or psychological insight into the fallibility of the human condition or the potential largeness or charitableness of the human heart. At best Gwartney is passable as a writer. Read it and prepare to thank your lucky stars your mother wasn’t like this mother. I KNOW I DID." By: Theresa Griffin-Kennedy

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rhian

    An extremely well-written and absolutely horrifying book. As mother of a couple of pre-teenagers, I read it with an agenda -- How can I keep this from happening to me? -- which made it all the more electrifying. One thing Gwartney did not include, which an editor should probably have pointed out, is a good sense of who these children were -- what they were like. For most of the book she doesn't distinguish between them or spend much time describing their individual personalities. She knows how t An extremely well-written and absolutely horrifying book. As mother of a couple of pre-teenagers, I read it with an agenda -- How can I keep this from happening to me? -- which made it all the more electrifying. One thing Gwartney did not include, which an editor should probably have pointed out, is a good sense of who these children were -- what they were like. For most of the book she doesn't distinguish between them or spend much time describing their individual personalities. She knows how to do it -- her ex-husband is described quite vividly. Maybe she felt that describing them would implicate them in their troubles? I don't know, but I think there was a void there.

  6. 4 out of 5

    S

    I'm angry that I finished this book.. this is one of those books, much like anything by Elizabeth Wurtzel, that I think I read to torture myself. Let's see, how can I put this kindly? I am... unsympathetic for her and her situation. I almost want to find her and give her a good slap, not the sexual kind either. I'm angry that I finished this book.. this is one of those books, much like anything by Elizabeth Wurtzel, that I think I read to torture myself. Let's see, how can I put this kindly? I am... unsympathetic for her and her situation. I almost want to find her and give her a good slap, not the sexual kind either.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Interesting story but we never got an idea of what the girls were like as people at all. The author seemed completely unable to parent her children or keep her emotions in check when dealing with them. I worry for her younger daughters.

  8. 5 out of 5

    J E

    The book never talked about the motives of the daughters in running away. I found the book shallow and cruel.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lucie

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book. I thought the author was brutally honest in her portrayal of raising four girls by herself after leaving a marriage that was doomed to fail from the beginning. Debra Gwartney captured all my fears of becoming a mother, from finding that fine balance of doing what's right for you and what's right for your children, having no control over your children's lives, loving them with everyone you've got, never giving up, watching them fail and experiencing failure yourself. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book. I thought the author was brutally honest in her portrayal of raising four girls by herself after leaving a marriage that was doomed to fail from the beginning. Debra Gwartney captured all my fears of becoming a mother, from finding that fine balance of doing what's right for you and what's right for your children, having no control over your children's lives, loving them with everyone you've got, never giving up, watching them fail and experiencing failure yourself. I would love to read Stephanie or Amanda's memoir. Being in recovery myself, I identified with the drug use, but I always wanted a warm place to sleep. I would love to gain insight on why they decided to turn to the streets and the issues/people that they faced. I identified with Debra Gwartney never giving up on her children, but them always pushing her away. This book made me think about what my drug/alcohol use must have done to my mom. I loved this book and will be thinking about it for years to come.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    Upon finishing this, I wondered if I should recommend it to my mother. Altho I never ran away and didn't get into the trouble and despair that this author's daughters did, I'm sure my mother experienced the anguish and insecurity that comes from having an out of control family member--whether it be me or my sister who paved the way before me. Upon finishing this, I wondered if I should recommend it to my mother. Altho I never ran away and didn't get into the trouble and despair that this author's daughters did, I'm sure my mother experienced the anguish and insecurity that comes from having an out of control family member--whether it be me or my sister who paved the way before me.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Purl Scout

    further proof that crusty punks are lame and that parenthood is terrifying. crappily written, but perfect for a vacation read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brandy

    I want to start out this response by saying that I lost my daughter this year-- but I can't, because she's still alive, and I blessedly don't have to face that horror. Perhaps I could say that my daughter has gone missing--but I know, more or less, where she is, and more importantly, that she is safe and cared for. I could fall back on the Hollywood cliche of "my daughter is lost to me." This, though, indicates some decision on my part to make it so, which there was not. Quite the opposite. I can't I want to start out this response by saying that I lost my daughter this year-- but I can't, because she's still alive, and I blessedly don't have to face that horror. Perhaps I could say that my daughter has gone missing--but I know, more or less, where she is, and more importantly, that she is safe and cared for. I could fall back on the Hollywood cliche of "my daughter is lost to me." This, though, indicates some decision on my part to make it so, which there was not. Quite the opposite. I can't even clarify or say too much about it in a public forum without feeling as though I'm betraying her trust. The bones of the matter are this: last February, after about six months of an extremely rocky relationship, she told me on the last scheduled day of her time with her father that she wanted to set up a family meeting between the three of us. Realizing that an active imagination is a bad thing to have when there are ominous vibes in the air between myself and someone I love, I asked her to put my mind at ease and answer a few questions. She wasn't pregnant. She wasn't dropping out of school. Was she moving out? The answer she gave me was silence. As far as I can recall, that was the last phone conversation I had with her, ten months ago now. She's texted me sporadically, usually confrontationally, and we've seen each other a couple of times in her therapist's office. That's it. Her father picks up her things when I've packed enough boxes to fill a closet. Up until last year--or, let's be generous and say up until she was fifteen and our relationship started to fray--we were constant companions. We shared many of the same interests and quirks, tastes, fandoms, and jokes. I still think she's one of the most amazing people I've ever known, and the hole she has left in my life is beyond description. But she has been in so much pain these last few years. Her struggles have grown over time, and have left me watching helplessly more than once. This isn't the place to go into what I think the reasons are for her withdrawal from me, or to place blame, or puzzle through the psychology of it. I want to instead turn my attention to Debra Gwartney's book about her own relationship with her teenaged daughters, Live Through This. I can't talk about this book and its significance to me without name dropping, of a sort. After my daughter cut ties and the first wave of grief had passed over me, I thought of an essay I'd read some years ago by Debra Gwartney. When I was an MFA student at the University of Oregon more than a decade ago, Gwartney worked in the Creative Writing Department. I have no idea if she remembers me. She was, though, kind to both me and my daughter, who went through preschool and kindergarten while I was in grad school. Gwartney had some sort of Rugrats decal on her iMac which my daughter adored; the two of them would occasionally conspire together in Gwartney's office while I attended to things which needed attending to in the neighboring office. I sometimes talked to Gwartney about her daughters, and she told me a little about the struggles they had gone through. I knew enough to seek out her essay published in a literary journal on the topic, and to feel a start of familiarity when her story was played on This American Life. The essay and radio piece were the first passages of Live Through This to receive public attention. Essentially, this book is a memoir of a problematic motherhood. It tells the story of Gwartney and her two oldest daughters, Stephanie and Amanda, trying to navigate some serious teenage drama, involving divorce, alienation, self-harm, substance abuse, and, eventually, the choice the girls made to live in the West Coast street culture. Most fiercely, though, it tells the story of Gwartney's attempts to wrestle with the idea of what it meant to be a good mother. Her daughters were hurt by their parents' youthful selfishness, yes, but they also refused her repeated attempts to help them, to give them other options, to protect them from their own worst decisions. Only after years of false starts and broken communication did the family begin the slow and painful process of reuniting. Gwartney never portrays herself as a saint. If she had, this book wouldn't have borne the attention it drew from a number of quarters. Instead, as many of the reviews point out, she is sharply honest both about her daughters' actions and the role she played in them. Gwartney made mistakes, trying too hard at some points and succumbing to the weariness of the struggle at others. Her depiction of her daughters during that time in their lives is unflinching, neither softened by nostalgia nor crystallized with resentment. She is also honest in her account of her own longing, her feelings of failure, her jealousy towards "normal" families, and the changing faces of her love for her daughters. In other words, she portrays herself and her daughters as human. When I think of Debra Gwartney at the U of O, I think of a woman who always struck me as kind, thoughtful, generous, efficient, and effective. Simply put, she had it together. I sought out Live Through This last spring because I wanted to understand how things could go so badly for a mother who was clearly capable, who cared and had resources and loved and, well, was a good mother, by my standards anyway. I know I was seeking confirmation a book couldn't give me. The truth is, no one can. The loss, in any form, of a child is the familiar terror which keeps new parents up at night. As the children grow older, we grow more complacent, certain that we've skated around that edge. We haven't. But most of us never consider that the biggest threat to our children is, sometimes, themselves. We're supposed to teach them better, to love them so much that their faith in themselves doesn't wane because they know our own faith in them will bolster it. Or we're supposed to be the superheroes, which becomes problematic when they don't want saving. A mother in particular is supposed to subsume her identity in her child's, or so everything around us seems to proclaim. And that, so the myth goes, will be enough. It will be enough to make our children happy and healthy. It will give them connection and purpose. However, Gwartney's daughters are hardly the first who have busted this myth, and they won't be the last. Gwartney herself won't be the last mother to make errors that lead her astray of the cultural script, and she doesn't seem to have found herself defined by the mistakes she did make. Maybe I won't be, either.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    I heard Ms. Gwartney's story on This American Life years ago and my wife and I flagged this book as one to read. Unfortunately, the execution is not there. I found the memoir maddening to read. It jumps around a lot, and not for any discernible reading. The story of her family falling apart is so sad but I never felt like the reader understood why it happened and her veering narrative didn't help (was I supposed to blame the ex-husband? were we not? what about her parents? what about her? what a I heard Ms. Gwartney's story on This American Life years ago and my wife and I flagged this book as one to read. Unfortunately, the execution is not there. I found the memoir maddening to read. It jumps around a lot, and not for any discernible reading. The story of her family falling apart is so sad but I never felt like the reader understood why it happened and her veering narrative didn't help (was I supposed to blame the ex-husband? were we not? what about her parents? what about her? what about her kids?). There were lots of closing sentences with reflection but they never added up. The stories of when the two girls finally did come home also felt anticlimatic and fractured. After being alluded to for pages on end, they just happened with little more said. I'm sure it's hard to write completely bluntly about people and events when those people are still close to you (like your kids and your parents) or are people still in those people's lives (like your ex-husband), but this book felt self-censored in certain moments in a way that diminished its overall effect.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Isabel1969

    While absorbing, this true story written by the mother of two run-away teenaged girls is disappointing in that the mother does not seem to have learned the most important lesson. All through the book, from the very first paragraph, Ms. Gwartney is incredibly judgemental against people living on the streets. I can't count the number of times she described with disgust their smell and appearance, including that of her own daughters. Perhaps if she had accepted that they were not the picture of per While absorbing, this true story written by the mother of two run-away teenaged girls is disappointing in that the mother does not seem to have learned the most important lesson. All through the book, from the very first paragraph, Ms. Gwartney is incredibly judgemental against people living on the streets. I can't count the number of times she described with disgust their smell and appearance, including that of her own daughters. Perhaps if she had accepted that they were not the picture of perfect suburban perfection that she longed for and instead accepted them as they were, with unconditional love, they wouldn't have run away. But the author does not seem to learn this lesson, does not seem to be capable of accepting, not even tolerating her daughters as they were. Of course parents don't want to accept arson, drug use, self abuse from their children. But coming at it with a "you are wrong and crazy" attitude obviously didn't work.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brandi Declue

    WOW!I was sucked in to this book and am still trying to recover. As a mother, it was a frightening book for me to read. This memoir actually made me get teary-eyed in a few spots, as well as mad. Mad at the author, mad at the ex-husband, mad at the daughters. I guess you could say there were a lot of emotions to deal with and that is part of the reason why I enjoyed it so much. There are some heavy moments in this book where Gwartney implicates herself and I admire that...a lot. I have already t WOW!I was sucked in to this book and am still trying to recover. As a mother, it was a frightening book for me to read. This memoir actually made me get teary-eyed in a few spots, as well as mad. Mad at the author, mad at the ex-husband, mad at the daughters. I guess you could say there were a lot of emotions to deal with and that is part of the reason why I enjoyed it so much. There are some heavy moments in this book where Gwartney implicates herself and I admire that...a lot. I have already told some of my friends, especially the mothers, to read this book. It wouldn't be a bad idea for a teenage girl or two to reader either.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Moira Russell

    Gwartney was the subject of a v affecting story on 'This American Life' and wrote some good pieces about her runaway daughters, but it really doesn't work as a book -- her tone is oddly flat and v defensive, and the lack of any testimony from her daughters whatsoever not only weakens the narrative but also her credibility. "Augusta, Gone" and other books like it are a much better example of the Confessionalist Mommy genre. Gwartney was the subject of a v affecting story on 'This American Life' and wrote some good pieces about her runaway daughters, but it really doesn't work as a book -- her tone is oddly flat and v defensive, and the lack of any testimony from her daughters whatsoever not only weakens the narrative but also her credibility. "Augusta, Gone" and other books like it are a much better example of the Confessionalist Mommy genre.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    A harrowing tale written by a mother whose two eldest daughters chose life on the streets at a very young age (12 and 14). What Debra Gwartney went through to get her daughters back home and safe is both exhausting and admirable. However, it is pretty clear that the fighting and public show of contempt that she and her ex-husband displayed was a large factor that caused these angry girls to jump ship in the first place. I listened to this book on audio and it was well done.

  18. 4 out of 5

    William

    had to read this for school. and to be as nice as possible: the mother is a whine bitch who needs to be slapped IMO. However, as much as i hated it i do have to say that it is very well written, to the point where i want to read more from the author, just not if it is about her and her family. from parents in my class, it seems like it might like it more if you have kids, but for me i couldn't stand it. had to read this for school. and to be as nice as possible: the mother is a whine bitch who needs to be slapped IMO. However, as much as i hated it i do have to say that it is very well written, to the point where i want to read more from the author, just not if it is about her and her family. from parents in my class, it seems like it might like it more if you have kids, but for me i couldn't stand it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dorianne Laux

    Harrowing story of motherhood by a writer who's been there. Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. If you're a mother, you need to read this book. http://fora.tv/2009/02/25/Debra_Gwart... Harrowing story of motherhood by a writer who's been there. Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. If you're a mother, you need to read this book. http://fora.tv/2009/02/25/Debra_Gwart...

  20. 4 out of 5

    reading is my hustle

    Smartly written account about every parents worst nightmare- losing your child (or in this case children). On Page 57, Gwartney poses the question that comes one day for the best of parents: "How do you get any kind of control back once it's utterly, totally gone?" Smartly written account about every parents worst nightmare- losing your child (or in this case children). On Page 57, Gwartney poses the question that comes one day for the best of parents: "How do you get any kind of control back once it's utterly, totally gone?"

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    This raw memoir is so relatable to anyone who has ever struggled with parenting. I admire the author's courage in writing this book. Beautifully real. This raw memoir is so relatable to anyone who has ever struggled with parenting. I admire the author's courage in writing this book. Beautifully real.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tabitha Blankenbiller

    This semester has been chock full of mothers. There’s my most-love-to-hate mother, Jeanette Walls’ in The Glass Castle. Ruth Reichl’s mother swings from maddeningly eccentric in Tender at the Bone to an empathetic portrait in Not Becoming My Mother. There’s the shocking suicide of Nick Flynn’s mother in Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which he may or may not blame on himself. Pam Houston’s is largely absent, but does pop in every once and a while to remind her that she’s fat in A Little Mor This semester has been chock full of mothers. There’s my most-love-to-hate mother, Jeanette Walls’ in The Glass Castle. Ruth Reichl’s mother swings from maddeningly eccentric in Tender at the Bone to an empathetic portrait in Not Becoming My Mother. There’s the shocking suicide of Nick Flynn’s mother in Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which he may or may not blame on himself. Pam Houston’s is largely absent, but does pop in every once and a while to remind her that she’s fat in A Little More About Me. And oh, how the title mother in Angela’s Ashes exasperates and breaks our hearts in one fell swoop! And it makes sense. How can you write a memoir that doesn’t feature your mother? Even if you’re chronicling your years in isolation on a mountain in Tanzania, her voice is going to pop into your head and narrative lecturing you to remember your jacket. While virtually every memoir and essay collection has featured the author’s mother, Live Through This stands out as the only book I’ve read this semester that is written by a mother being a mother. Many of the authors I’ve read have had children, but the journey they’ve written about isn’t centered around what it takes to succeed or fail as a mother. These questions consume Gwartney during her daughter’s tumultuous adolescence, and create a raw and dividing narrative. Nothing sets you up for criticism quite like discussing your parenting strategies. You’ve instantly turned your audience into a cluster of critics: it seems to be common belief that if you’ve had a mother, you’re fit to judge one. Parenting styles and choices are easy to pick apart. With a combination of hindsight and self-importance, it’s easy to rip Gwartney apart. She’s made herself completely vulnerable to it, honestly discussing her choices and motivations in her divorce and life as a single mother. She does not shy away from admitting mistakes and agonizing over what she did or did not do, inviting us in to analyze with her. It takes a lot of chutzpah to write that you told your troubled daughter “I’m done, I’m finished. I give up. We can’t live together anymore… I am so fucking done with you” (Gwartney 198-199). Live Through This takes no prisoners. The runaway daughters are painted in unflattering shades of ungratefulness, selfishness and downright stupidity that made me want to smack them in their snarky little faces. Despite the honest frustration and hurt that Gwartney expresses, you never doubt what she wrestles and struggles and even occasionally tries to deny—that she loves these daughters unconditionally. And these are certainly conditions. She treads the dichotomy between love and hate that arises from the bond of family challenged by the reality of behavior. When it comes down to it, no one is harder on Debra that Gwartney. “If in that moment,” she often agonizes, isolating those twitches in consciousness and motion that, years later, signify communication and signals that only superhumans could sense in real-time. Yet this is a mother’s job, she thinks, a good mother would know. Would she? Is she a good mother, a bad mother, or just as human as everyone else within the story? Gwartney avoids ever labeling herself as either, leaving an almost-dare for us to decide. She’s made arguments for both sides, leaving us with a final vision of a healing and growing family. The book ends on a wonderful last line, where daughter Amanda recounts the advice given by her mother as she delivered her newborn: “You said, Amanda, do it for your baby” (Gwartney 222). This book, and everything Debra did within it, was for her babies. Whether you believe you’d have done the same, you’re hard-pressed to deny that. This level of truthfulness and clarity is only achieved through writing this absolutely honest. It is a work of bravery and persistence, and I deeply admire that.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Carla Perry

    Debra Gwartney's memoir of a mother of 4 daughters by a previous marriage who lays it all out on the page: her horrendous failures as a mother and ex-wife who puts her own need for anger and revenge ahead of her children’s comfort, and thus causes a situation where the two oldest daughters become street people, first in Eugene, Oregon – doing drugs, alcohol, prostitution - but they’re only 14 and 16 years old. The family rallies around to provide intervention settings – therapies, outward bound Debra Gwartney's memoir of a mother of 4 daughters by a previous marriage who lays it all out on the page: her horrendous failures as a mother and ex-wife who puts her own need for anger and revenge ahead of her children’s comfort, and thus causes a situation where the two oldest daughters become street people, first in Eugene, Oregon – doing drugs, alcohol, prostitution - but they’re only 14 and 16 years old. The family rallies around to provide intervention settings – therapies, outward bound courses, residential facilities, then a foster parent setup in Burns. The younger daughter is even angrier, more determined to hit the rail cars and get somewhere else. She’s sent to Montana to live with old friends of Debra’s, but she’s just biding her time. Thousands of dollars are sent by Gwartney's father, brother, her ex-husband, insurance, all producing zero results. The two girls come home briefly – until they take off for California by jumping freight cars. They’re sick, they’re shooting up heroin, they’re living on the street and there’s no help the police can provide because it isn't a crime to run away or live on the streets. Debra portrays herself as a mother who continues making all the wrong decisions – trying to orchestrate what her girls do and when, but that’s obviously not working and she admits she didn’t see it. The two younger girls – they are just slightly more than babies when this odyssey starts – are scared, timid, fragile, waiting for the next explosion. Gwartney barely cares for them as she remains preoccupied with Amanda (the oldest) and Stephanie (the younger of the two runaways.) Finally, Amanda comes homes and gradually works her way up from street person to living with a trashy boyfriend, to living with girlfriends, to living with a good boyfriend and the book ends with her giving birth to his baby. Meanwhile, Stephanie has remained on the streets, first the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, then Tucson. After almost a year, by which time Gwartney has resigned herself that the girl is dead, Stephanie calls, wanting money to save her puppy. Gwartney refuses. She offers to send a plane ticket home, Stephanie hangs up. But eventually the girl returns home, remains angry, belligerent, back to her old street ways and friends in Eugene. Gwartney gives her an ultimatum – apply to the Eagle Rock School in Colorado or get out of her life forever. Stephanie applies, is accepted, goes off and stays there three years, learning skills, becoming a human being again, graduating. A book where both parents and children are dysfunctional, making this an irritating book to read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amy Murray

    Reading this book was equal parts painful and eye-opening. Debra Gwartney survived not only a traumatic divorce, but the near-loss of her two oldest daughters, who turn to a life of drinking, drugs, and homelessness in response to the break-up of their family. Here are what I found to be the most powerful aspects of this book: 1. I was most impressed with Gwartney's ability to look back honestly on the mistakes she made during her divorce. Admitting that she was, at times, more interested in hurt Reading this book was equal parts painful and eye-opening. Debra Gwartney survived not only a traumatic divorce, but the near-loss of her two oldest daughters, who turn to a life of drinking, drugs, and homelessness in response to the break-up of their family. Here are what I found to be the most powerful aspects of this book: 1. I was most impressed with Gwartney's ability to look back honestly on the mistakes she made during her divorce. Admitting that she was, at times, more interested in hurting her ex-husband than protecting the emotional needs of her daughters had to be a painful revelation to make. However, it is clear by her tone that she isn't out for pity, she is merely stating facts: here is what happened, here is how I reacted, here is what I learned. 2. The most painful portion of the story, for me, was identifying with Mary and Mollie, the author's two youngest daughters, who are so often pushed to the back burner as their mother scrambles to save their older sisters. Having been raised in a household with a single mom raising six daughters, three of whom tested boundaries much the way Gwartney's oldest daughters did, I can tell you how frustrating and heartbreaking it is to grow up in the shadow of your sibling's drama and addiction. So many times, while reading this book, I wanted to scream at the author for ignoring her youngest children--the daughters who were going to school, getting good grades, DOING WHAT THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO DO--and yet, as a mother, I can understand the flip-side of the situation: could I just walk away from a child who was choosing to live on the streets? Could I rest without knowing for certain they were safe every night? This had to be something the author struggled with every day, leaving her "good" daughters to fend for themselves because she was certain they could, while chasing after the selfish children who didn't want to be caught. Overall, this is a powerful book written by a brave woman who never gave up on her difficult children, no matter how badly they acted or how much hell they brought in to the family. You can't help but root for this family from the first page to the last...and it's hard to rest at night, yourself, without knowing whether her daughters are going to turn out safe or not.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lezlee Hays

    I first became interested in this when This American Life did an interview with these girls and their mother several years ago. I remember being so intrigued with the story I sat in the hot car in the summer heat to finish listening to the radio and not going in to the grocery store as I had planned. The harrowing tale of what these girls went through while on the road as runaways was both fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I have always been interested in reading this book, which the I first became interested in this when This American Life did an interview with these girls and their mother several years ago. I remember being so intrigued with the story I sat in the hot car in the summer heat to finish listening to the radio and not going in to the grocery store as I had planned. The harrowing tale of what these girls went through while on the road as runaways was both fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I have always been interested in reading this book, which the mother was working on at the time, but which took years to actually get published (or finished). Last night I had insomnia and read it straight through. I mostly was already familiar with the story. What I went looking for I think was the 'why'. On the radio program, I just couldn't get a handle on how things went so badly and so wrong with these otherwise bright girls at such a young age, with a seemingly together mother. I think what the story fleshes out is where the mother's blame in the situation lies. She's pretty honest about a lot of these things really being her fault by the way she reacted to the girls - moving them from their father after a divorce, not setting proper boundaries, not being willing to accept any blame in the situation, not taking control before things got so far out of hand, and being unrealistic as a parent about what was really best for the girls. Of course, it's easy to have 20/20 hindsight. I can understand how she made many of her mistakes. While she is a good writer, I felt like the story needed more of the girls' perspectives - I liked having that on the radio program and missed it here. Here, you get in fact so little of the girls' perspectives, I'm not sure if you can really appreciate where their heads were and what they were going through. I would loved to have seen more of a collaboration in the story with the girls perspectives and more of their story of being on the road. But as it is, it's a good, well written, cautionary memoir and tale from a mother who did indeed, live through this.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Debra Gwartney’s Live Through This should be required reading for all parents and all adolescents, because Gwartney and her daughters have “lived through” a worst nightmare scenario for most parents, and they’ve done it with love and grit and have come out whole and together on the other side. Pre-teens and teens should read it because it will show them the true consequences of what might initially feel like a lark, like freedom, like the perfect way to get back at a parent with whom they’re ang Debra Gwartney’s Live Through This should be required reading for all parents and all adolescents, because Gwartney and her daughters have “lived through” a worst nightmare scenario for most parents, and they’ve done it with love and grit and have come out whole and together on the other side. Pre-teens and teens should read it because it will show them the true consequences of what might initially feel like a lark, like freedom, like the perfect way to get back at a parent with whom they’re angry. Gwartney’s heart leads her, and her reader, as she continually falls back and regroups to face again the agony of each day missing and seeking her runaway daughters. We also share the daughters’ love for each other, love that leads sometimes to ruin and ultimately to redemption. None of this is easy; this book does not omit the visceral to cater to the faint of heart. Gwartney not only looks unflinchingly at what her daughters experienced while on their own, but also unsparingly examines what she perceives to be her own weaknesses as a parent, an adult, a woman. There is substance abuse in this story, drugs and alcohol, and there is divorce and loss and anger, but it is above all a love story. This is an important story to be told, to be shared, and Gwartney’s devotion to her craft as a writer is only outshone by her devotion to her daughters. As someone with a significant young person in my life who has struggled with addiction, someone who chose to be absent from our lives for ten years, I found information, comfort and acceptance in this book. If you do not share the author’s circumstances, you will find much to learn in these pages should similar issues arise in you life, and things to appreciate more avidly if they do not. Gwartney never gives up, and what she so generously and honestly shares in this book is a tribute to her as a mother and a writer. She has earned every word.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sabine

    Having interviewed Gwartney in 2011, I've been meaning to read this memoir of hers ever since. She's a compelling writer/thinker when it comes to place, sense of place, sense of heritage, along with Mary Clearman Blew who was part of the Gwartney interview (published in Whitefish Review, June 2011). This memoir is not necessarily reflective of that side of Gwartney, however, and I find I am eager to read her newer work, and upcoming (I think) historical memoir about her family who were early Ida Having interviewed Gwartney in 2011, I've been meaning to read this memoir of hers ever since. She's a compelling writer/thinker when it comes to place, sense of place, sense of heritage, along with Mary Clearman Blew who was part of the Gwartney interview (published in Whitefish Review, June 2011). This memoir is not necessarily reflective of that side of Gwartney, however, and I find I am eager to read her newer work, and upcoming (I think) historical memoir about her family who were early Idaho settlers. 'Live Through This' is worthwhile though as a parent of tweens & teens as a gentle reminder of roads that can be taken by one's children, roads that ought to be avoided as the parent, and, at the least, a gratitude-inducing piece if you have teens that are basically on the upward road toward the people they (and you) hope they'll grow into. With Bob Shacochis as part of her editorial/mentor crew as she wrote this, as well as her husband Barry Lopez, I would have expected the narrative to be more fluid, and her self-reflective insights more layered. The timeline bounces around in an odd way, not in the way say that 'Beloved' by Toni Morrison challenges the reader, which is a necessary structural challenge for the reader. Gwartney's narrative structure feels that it was chopped up, reorganized like cards in a deck randomly, and put together again in hopes of making it feel more mysterious, more insightful, more creative, but it instead feels amateur at times in the structuring and human insights. This is likely because this was her grad school project at Bennington in large part, and isn't by any means my commentary on her abilities as a writer and a thinker. Again, read this for a nice quick read that mostly keeps you turning the pages, and will help budding writers of memoir see some alleys and avenues of narrative craft that they may feel inspired to improve upon in their own work. Then, commit to reading Gwartney's newer or upcoming work.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Corrina

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Live Through This (aptly titled after Hole's post-Cobain grief album, which Gwartney gave her daughters one Christmas) describes the disappearance and return of two of Gwartney's four daughters, teenage girls who chose to leave their mother and then, finally, to come back. The book details the family's collapse, month by month, and the start of its rebuilding. It exposes a truth most would prefer to avoid: There are some situations in which it's genuinely impossible to figure out the "right" thi Live Through This (aptly titled after Hole's post-Cobain grief album, which Gwartney gave her daughters one Christmas) describes the disappearance and return of two of Gwartney's four daughters, teenage girls who chose to leave their mother and then, finally, to come back. The book details the family's collapse, month by month, and the start of its rebuilding. It exposes a truth most would prefer to avoid: There are some situations in which it's genuinely impossible to figure out the "right" thing to do. Gwartney recounts the end of her marriage to a charming Peter Pan-- a man who tells his daughters that the child support he sends should be given directly to them as a kind of glorified allowance-- and the two daughters who simply cannot cope with their newly reconfigured family. Finding solace in the street culture of Eugene, Oregon, they begin to disappear for days and weeks at a time, a behavior that escalates until they hop a freight train and leave town, one for several months, the other for a year. During their absences, Gwartney tries to keep the rest of her family together, parenting her remaining two daughters, going to work, spending thousands of dollars on private investigators and, whenever the girls are found, rehabilitation programs and therapists and private schools. This is a book about desperation and helplessness, about grief and guilt, about accountability and loss, about love and resentment, about the unanswerable questions a mother and her daughters ask in the face of circumstances that simply make no sense. This is a book that exonerates no one and vilifies no one. In careful, expert, calm prose, Gwartney tells this story with heartbreaking vulnerability and honesty. This is not an easy book to read, which makes doing so all the more important and worthwhile. It is life laid bare; it is everything a memoir should be.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    I started reading this book and thought man this story sounds awfully familiar. Turns out I had actually heard it on a segment of This American Life. Of course the book goes into much more detail than they could cover in a 20 minute radio segment, so it wasn't as if reading it was a complete waste of time. I actually really enjoyed the book, although it made me sad. The story is basically about a family with 4 daughters, the older 2 of whom run away from home. The book is written by the mother b I started reading this book and thought man this story sounds awfully familiar. Turns out I had actually heard it on a segment of This American Life. Of course the book goes into much more detail than they could cover in a 20 minute radio segment, so it wasn't as if reading it was a complete waste of time. I actually really enjoyed the book, although it made me sad. The story is basically about a family with 4 daughters, the older 2 of whom run away from home. The book is written by the mother basically about her life with her daughters after her divorce from their father, specifically concentrating on the fact that her two oldest daughters eventually run away from home. The story is really interesting, if not heartbreaking. You really get a sense of how the girls got to be so rebellious, but you can also relate to the mother who is trying to hold onto her children even though she should probably just let them go because she is barely keeping it together, and she still has two other daughters who need her. The mother seems to finally come to some realization about the things she did to get her family where it winds up, at least she writes as if she has some insight. Although I never really get the sense that her actions truly change. It's actually kind of amazing that with everything this family went through that all 4 of the daughters seem to have eventually turned out well. I'm actually shocked that the younger 2 daughters didn't wind up mental cases like their older sisters with living in the situation caught between their mother and sisters as they did. It's an engaging book and the mother really does a good job of not just presenting her side of the story. Although I really do wonder what makes sleeping on the streets a better alternative for some kids than a home that may not be perfect, but certainly isn't abusive.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Annarosepenny

    I flew through "Live Through This," the train wreck that is our teenage lives, sometimes. Somehow, even though it's tempting at times, I do not blame the mom for what happened to her two eldest girls, Amanda and Stephanie, ages 15 and 13. In their home in AZ, mom is getting antsy. She's been with the impulsively immature dad for too long (a bad idea since college), and needs out. Who can blame her for packing up her FOUR girls, and leaving for the PNW? Who can blame her for working full time, an I flew through "Live Through This," the train wreck that is our teenage lives, sometimes. Somehow, even though it's tempting at times, I do not blame the mom for what happened to her two eldest girls, Amanda and Stephanie, ages 15 and 13. In their home in AZ, mom is getting antsy. She's been with the impulsively immature dad for too long (a bad idea since college), and needs out. Who can blame her for packing up her FOUR girls, and leaving for the PNW? Who can blame her for working full time, and watching her daughters take to the streets of downtown Eugene? Maybe it's because I see these kids, or I am a resident of Eugene, or I was once a long time ago, a difficult daughter, or I am now a mom of a baby girl. But I sympathize with mom, and I at times despise these girls, who leave home, angry. They take to manic panic hair dye, dog collars, ruck sacks piled with blankets and clothes, drugs, and eventually leave the city for freight trains that take them down the west coast, to AZ, and TX. It's a story that sucks you in, to read about the demise of some girls. Some girls that would rather listen to Hole, learn the accordion, and get high with other vagabonds, a long way from home, than kiss their mother good night and wake up to an alarm for another day of school. I could have been one of those girls, or rather, sometimes I wished I could let go... Luckily, these girls are ultimately saved, and saved again, from this brink of abyss (as wild and luring as the abyss can be), and thanks to mom, Stephanie gets to go to an alternative school at the foot of the Rockies, teach in Thailand for a summer, and study poetry and art in the Berkshires. The book ends on a hopeful note, through a beautiful retelling of Amanda giving birth to her son. The story, through it's haunts and hope, will stay with me for a long time...

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