“Book Review: This Never Happened”
reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
A tug of war between compassion and resentment.
The trauma our parents cause us isn’t always easily resolved in a therapy session. This Never Happened, a memoir by Liz Scott, exemplifies just how long those wounds can stay unhealed.
A woman now “in [her] eighth decade,” Scott writes this book as a glance back on the foundation that started her journey. With emphasis on figuring out her past, she tries to come to terms with the anonymity that both her parents left of their history. They provided her no glimpse into their own lives and no information about the families they both come from. Left to her own devices, Scott takes it upon herself to piece together their lives and all the things that happened between the silence within her family.
“If there are answers out there, I want them. If there is sense to be made, let me make it. And while we are at it, do let me forgive. Maybe. I guess.”
Jumping back and forth in time through small chapters, Scott gives readers a glimpse into her memories. Though sometimes told through major life events like the death of her parents or the breakdown of marriages, it’s the smaller chapters that give me the most insight into her life and emotions. Stories about disagreeing over a jacket on a shopping trip or a frustrating call with the life insurance company illustrate how the small things build up inside of you after a while, and create an armor. Scott mellows out these tense topics with a humor that seems both sincere and much like the way you laugh right before you start crying.
The most compelling part of this life story to me is the addition of letters she found written by or for her parents. These correspondences are varied in time, some having been written before her parents married and some in the midst of their divorce. All are beautifully composed (even in anger) and revealing. It feels almost invasive: me, a stranger, having access to such deeply personal documents. Her father’s love letter to her mother, toward the beginning of their life, feels so pure and touching. The anger written through the divorce holds so much hurt and history. But these letters are what really bring these characters to life, working well in contrast to the chapters that paint them in the light of “parent.” Though Scott is sure to share the many ways in which they’ve hurt her, she does well to give them their voice. It is a dynamic addition, bringing a great balance to the story and showing a fairness in Scott that I don’t always find in memoirs. Through the author’s raw emotions and the rawness laid out in the letters, we get both sides of the story.
“This is where I live–somewhere smack between pity and rage, between empathy and indictment. And as hard as I look, I still can’t find a place to rest between mercy and pain.”
This book is filled to the brim with emotions. Scott lays it all out there, bluntly, and doesn’t hold back. Any reader will appreciate the vulnerability on display for Scott to write about the people closest to her in such a revealing and thought-provoking way.
Publisher: University of Hell Press
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