Judith Lucy is a well-known Australian comedian. Her humour is self depreciating and dry, in the same way desert sand that's been left in a dessicator for three weeks is dry. This is a woman who's most famous tour was about being sacked as a radio host, called 'I failed'.
Like most comedians, her family has provided much of her material. The Lucy Family Alphabet is, in many ways, the work of a woman trying to come to terms with having two very complex parents. Who, actually weren't her parents at all, which she was told when she was 25. The book is also about the fallout of that discovery, and meeting her birth mother.
She uses a set-up where the chapters begin with a letter of the alphabet (eg A is for adoption), followed by a few pages of explanation, to tell the many smaller stories that make up her history. There were a few times I longed for a flowchart of the order of major events with all the chapters slotted into their proper place in that chain of events, but for the most part, I really liked the format. Judith has a gift with words that takes a lot of the sting out of the tales. I often laughed out loud, even when I was cringing. One chapter had me howling, but that's probably because my sense of humour is ten years old and thinks small mad dogs that aim directly for the testicles of larger dogs is the nadir of funny.
I think a lot of people with 'complicated' families will relate, if not to the experiences, then to the tone of the book. The anger, and the love. The pity and the regrets. Judith's mother is probably the most interesting person. She was a very intelligent woman, but so desperate for the attention of an indifferent husband that she ended up sabotaging any hope of a comfortable relationship with him. There's also a lot of truth in the bond between Judith and her older brother Niall. He's such a sweet, protective presence throughout the book, even though he's as damaged as she is.
This is a fantastic book.