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We are all shipwrecks

This past Friday, Michelle and I drove to Lincoln, Nebraska, to hear Kelly Grey Carlisle give a reading from her newly released memoir, We Are All Shipwrecks. What led us to spend eight hours in the car for a one-hour reading. Let’s see …

Michelle knew Kelly well when Kelly was at Grinnell [1]. Kelly was working on the book then and shared parts with Michelle. Michelle found Kelly’s story and writing incredibly compelling [2]. Michelle was also Kelly’s physician and delivered Kelly’s first child [3]. Michelle loves Kelly and Kelly’s writing enough that she was ready to fly to LA to hear Kelly read from the book. When she told Kelly that, Kelly said something like You know I’ll be reading in Lincoln, right?

In any case, we made plans to drive out. We were both a bit sick. I was behind on work. But I needed a break and time with Michelle and we both wanted to hear Kelly read.

I’m glad we did. The reading was spectacular. Her story, though painful, is, as I said, compelling. You can probably find lots about the book online [4]. A core set of elements are that her mother was killed when she was three weeks old; her mother was estranged from her parents, so the detectives had to figure out that her mother had a baby, had to find Kelly, and had to find relatives; and the case is still open [5].

From what I know, a lot of the book is about how Kelly grew up having lost her mother so early and wanting to know more about the woman who brought her into thi world. There’s also a strong theme of how she tried to reconnect to the case as an adult, reaching out to the LAPD for more information [7] and continuing to try to find out who her mother was.

I have no idea how she was able to write about her experiences, nor how she is able to read them aound in front of audiences. If I heard correctly, she even reads from her memoir in front of her students and encourages them to ask questions. But I’m glad she does. It was amazing hearing her story, in her words, literally in her voice [8].

I also don’t know how she does it. It must be incredibly painful to know, for example, that there were people who lived with your mother and who could tell you about her, that the police knows who those people are, but that they can’t tell you.

Anyway, Kelly is an awesome person, the parts I heard were amazing. I look forward to reading it. I hope you’ll read it, too. I also hope to hear Kelly read again, perhaps at Writers@Grinnell [9], perhaps at Prairie Lights.

Three things I couldn’t fit in the musing but that

I’d like to understand why the thinks that it’s appropriate to start the page for the book with FOR FANS OF THE GLASS CASTLE, now a major motion picture starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, and Naomi Watts. Buy the book from your local independent bookstore instead.

What did Kelly say to me, other than Hi? Make sure to get Michelle home safely. It’s not that I don’t care about you, but I really care about her. [10]

The chaos at Indigo Bridge Books was interesting. I bought the last copy they had (and wanted another one). They did have another box, but a staff member accidentally drove off with it. As they said, That’s the joy of independent bookstores. They have promised to send me a second copy. It does seem to be an awesome bookstore. You should visit it if you are ever in Lincoln. I should visit it again when I’m next in Lincoln.

[1] If I recall correctly, Kelly’s husband was a visiting faculty member in music, and Kelly was finishing her Ph.D. at UNL. But she spent a lot of time at Grinell and I think taught some courses. She may have even been a visitor herself. Boy, my memory sucks.

[2] That’s not surprising. She’s an excellent writer and her story really is compelling, at least the parts I know. I have not yet had the time or emotional energy to read the book.

[3] I’m comfortable writing that in public because Kelly said it in public at the reading.

[4] Hopefully, you cannot find the text of the book itself online. And, even if you can, you should buy a copy. Kelly spent eight or more years of her life on the book.

[5] Maybe I should use Kelly’s words, rather than mine. Here’s what she writes about her second meeting with the detective [6], when she was eight.

My mother had been murdered when I was three weeks old. This was the detective who’d found me nestled in a pulled-out dresser drawer in a Hollywood motel room. My grandfather had explained these things to me a few weeks before, the first time I’d ever heard the truth about her death.

[6] Her first was when she was three weeks old. It doesn’t really count.

[7] Such information is clearly limited, since the case is open.

[8] I see that the audiobook version is read by someone else. That makes me sad. I can’t imagine it having the same impact, intimacy, or intensity.

[9] That’s a hint!

[10] That’s a paraphrase.

Version 1.0 of 2017-09-20.