If you like Augusten Burroughs, his memoir Running With Scissors in particular, then you will be equal parts mesmerized and horrified by Ariel Leve’s memoir An Abbreviated Life. Leve’s mother was also an unstable poet and while her father was in her life he was literally across the world from her in a time before Skype or even email.
Leve’s mother, the poet Sandra Hochman, was unstable on her best days and abusive on her worst. Her mother craved her daughter’s love and affection, something a young Ariel had trouble expressing, but would often disappear for things she found more important. She would throw raucous parties on weekdays but demanded her daughter be silent when it suited her “creative” needs.
“I am in hiding, an emotional fugitive.”
Leve has since estranged herself from her mother by moving to Bali, where her father resides, and has made a life with a man with simple ideals and twin daughters from a previous relationship. She alternates her narrative between her present with her new family and her troubling past with her mother. This flip-flopping can be a little annoying but overall her story in horrifying, compelling and impossible to believe. It has taken Leve over 40 years to extract herself from her mother’s clutches and this memoir seems to be her final nail in the coffin of their relationship. She visits with people who knew her when she was younger, delves into her past with her father and shares some of the things she has learned through therapy as an adult.