Bookshots: 'The Other Side: A Memoir' by Lacy M. Johnson

Bookshots: 'The Other Side: A Memoir' by Lacy M. Johnson

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Title:

The Other Side: A Memoir

Who wrote it?

Beauty, pain, rage and hope suffuse every page of 'The Other Side'. It's not just a gripping memoir, but a testament to the healing powers of memory.

Lacy M. Johnson, author of Trespasses: A Memoir, a Prof/Creative Director at University of Houston.

Plot in a Box:

After a daring escape from a murderous ex-boyfriend, Johnson fights to make sense of a life forever changed.

Invent a new title for this book:

Tell Me You'll Love Me Forever (which is what Johnson's ex would implore between episodes of abuse.)

Read this if you liked:

Trespasses: A Memoir by Lacy M. Johnson, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Meet the book’s lead:

Johnson's actually an escape artist — breaking free first from her one-horse hometown and parents' stifling love, then twice from a madman obsessed.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

Natalie Portman, because she could pull off being a tattooed wildchild and academic at the same time.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

Paris, Venezuela, Budapest, Spain — Johnson writes evocatively of her travels with her ex, but the most thrilling is the journey she takes to be free of him.

What was your favorite sentence?

I give the newest therapist the list. "It's possible I'm not remembering right."
She laughs out loud. "Is there any other way of remembering?"

The Verdict:

"Take a breath...You're not dead yet." Johnson's memoir begins the night she eludes a violent demise and drives herself to the police station...and the rest of her life.

Immediately, we're drawn into the recollections of a victim of a crime who refuses to be a Victim for All Time. The narrative skips about: from a den of torture, to the restless, young adult she'd been years before, to the relationship with her professor that develops into one both dream-like and nightmarish, to a survivor who struggles to create a new life in a world forever changed. The structure, however, is seamless, causing us to be lost in the story without losing our place in the narrative.

Unlike a lot of Event Memoir, Johnson does not write exclusively about the book's catalyst or even herself. We are also taken along the journey of a young writer, witness the contrast between police notes and witness testimony, as well as the implosion of her parents' 30 year marriage and its aftermath, all unified by the theme of the uses of memory, and the way memory uses us.

Occasionally, I found the lovely, razor-sharp prose a bit slow-going — a circling around the crux of the story rather than the story itself. But perhaps that was deliberate. The manipulated student, the abused girlfriend, the kidnapped ex, taking back her story, taking control.

Beauty, pain, rage and hope suffuse every page of The Other Side. It's not just a gripping memoir, but a testament to the healing powers of memory.

Image of The Other Side: A Memoir
Author: Lacy M. Johnson
Price: $13.62
Publisher: Tin House Books (2014)
Binding: Paperback, 232 pages
Naturi Thomas-Millard

Review by Naturi Thomas-Millard

Naturi is the author of How to Die in Paris: A Memoir (2011, Seal Press/Perseus Books) She's published fiction, non-fiction and poetry in magazines such as Barrow St. and Children, Churches and Daddies. At Sherri Rosen Publicity Int'l, she works as an editor and book doctor. Originally from NYC, she now lives in a village in England which appears to have more sheep than people. This will make starting a book club slightly challenging.

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