In his memoir, The Afterlife, Donald Antrim attempts to come to terms with his fragmented, frightening upbringing with his alcoholic mother.
Through using metaphors such as the purchasing of a bed to examining one of the crazy garment designed by his mother, Antrim exposes the memories he has of the volatile and complicated relationship of his parents, who married twice, but failed to make for Donald and his sister a secure or safe environment. Instead, as soon as they were able, they bolted, only to be brought back to their mother's side over and over as she battled the effects of a life of alcoholism.
Antrim's approach is unusual -- in no way is the memoir linear; it's a collection of memories, dreams, fantasies, and un-realities that must be a byproduct of a type of survival technique for someone who lived a childhood full of loneliness, fear, shame, and loss.
As his mother approach her last months, Antrium writes that "[I] lost the fortitude, the ability, the heart to be with my mother. For a time, I referred to her, in thought and in conversation with others, not as my mother but as Louanne. In thinking of her, I pretended an objectivity of perspective that I did not, nor will ever, possess, and in doing so, I pretended to myself that the coming loss of her would not hurt, and that in the absence of suffering I would go forward, a free man."
The Afterlife is a raw book as Antrium opens his veins for all to see -- the sad thing is -- it seems a wasted effort.