The Liars' Club

The Liars' Club is a memoir by the American author Mary Karr. Published in 1995 by Viking Adult, the book tells the story of Karr's childhood in the 1960s in a small industrial town in Southeast Texas.[1] The title refers to her father and his friends who would gather together to drink and tell stories when they were not working at the local oil refinery or the chemical plant.[2]

The Liars' Club
The Liars' Club.jpg
AuthorMary Karr
CountryUnited States
PublisherViking Adult
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages320 pp
818/.5403 B 20
LC ClassPS3561.A6929 Z468 1995

The book was a New York Times bestseller.[3] In addition to winning the PEN/Martha Albrand Award,[4][5] the memoir was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.[6] In 2005, a 10-year anniversary edition was published with an added introduction from Karr.[7] The Liars' Club is credited for launching a resurgence in the popularity of the memoir genre.[8][9]

After the success of The Liars' Club, Karr followed up with two more memoirs: Cherry, which picks up at the end of The Liars' Club, was published in 2001,[10] and Lit which was published in 2009.[11]


The book tells the story of Karr's troubled childhood in a small Texas town in the early 1960s. Using a non-linear story line, Karr describes the troubles of growing up in a family and town where heavy alcohol abuse and psychological problems are common issues. The memoir details her experience being raped and molested as a child, her mother's mental instability, and her witness to death and disparity.[12]

The book is split into three sections, each corresponds to a different period of her life. The first section, called "Texas, 1961", details Karr's and her sister Lecia's upbringing in Southeast Texas. The narrative includes backgrounds on her mother Charlie and her father J.P., including how they met, and their previous relationships. Karr also writes about her maternal grandmother who, at 50 years old, died of cancer.

The second section of the book is called "Colorado, 1963". Karr explains that her family "moved to Colorado wholly by accident".[13] While in Colorado, Karr's parents get divorced, and J.P. moves back to Texas, while Karr and her sister stay with Charlie. Her mother eventually meets Hector, who tries to make the girls call him "Daddy". After Charlie begins to drink again, Karr and Lecia become scared when one night their mother points a gun at and threatens Hector. Eventually, J.P. flies the girls back to Texas. Charlie and Hector travel to Texas too, and after J.P. punches Hector, Charlie leaves him, returning to her ex-husband for good.

The third section titled, "Texas Again, 1980", jumps ahead 17 years to a period when Karr is older and living in Boston, She returns to Texas after her father suffers a stroke. Karr helps Charlie care for J.P. While there, Karr reconnects with her mother and learns more about Charlie's mysterious past and previous mental health issues.


The Liars' Club received universal acclaim upon its publication in 1995. Sheila Ballantyne of The New York Times lauds the memoir's "haunting, often exquisite phrasing of states of being and qualities of mind that resonate long after a page is turned."[12] Writing for The Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley noted that, "The Liars' Club is a tribute to and lament for a world its author no longer occupies. ... It is the essential American story."[14]


  1. ^ Smith, Dinitia (June 27, 1995). "Gritty Book Sets Prudence Aside". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  2. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (May 26, 2018). "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; They're Liars, and That's Just the Least of Their Problems". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  3. ^ "Inside the List". Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  4. ^ "Mary Karr - PEN America". Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  5. ^ "Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction Winners". PEN American Center. Archived from the original on October 4, 2012.
  6. ^ "The Liars' Club". MARY KARR. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  7. ^ Karr, Mary (2005). The Liars' Club: A Memoir (10th anniversary ed.). New York: Penguin. ISBN 978-0143035749. OCLC 61332250.
  8. ^ Donnelly, Erin (September 18, 2015). "Mary Karr On "The Art Of Memoir," Defending Lena Dunham & Her TV Plans". Refinery29. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  9. ^ "Mary Karr On Writing Memoirs: 'No Doubt I've Gotten A Million Things Wrong'". Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  10. ^ "Observer review: Cherry by Mary Karr". the Guardian. 2001-06-24. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  11. ^ "Review: Lit, by Mary Karr". Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  12. ^ a b Ballantyne, Sheila (July 9, 1995). "The Thousand-Yard Stare". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  13. ^ Karr, Mary (2005). The Liars' Club: A Memoir (10th anniversary ed.). New York: Penguin. pp. 177. ISBN 978-0143035749. OCLC 61332250.
  14. ^ Yardley, Jonathan (June 18, 1995). "Book review: 'The Liar's Club' by Mary Karr". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-09-13.