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This is the story of three people: acclaimed writer Julia Blackburn; her father, Thomas—a poet and alcoholic with an addiction to barbiturates; and her mother, Rosaliea flirtatious painter with no boundaries.
After Julia's parents divorced, her mother took in male lodgers with the hope they would become her lovers. When one of the lodgers began an affair with Julia, competitive Rosalie was devastated; he later committed suicide, shattering whatever relationship between mother and daughter remained. After thirty years, Rosalie, diagnosed with leukemia, came to live with Julia for the last month of her life. Only then were they allowed, at long last, to exist with an ease they had never known.
“Striking. . . . Colored by passion and memory. . . . [Blackburn] artfully smudges the line between memoir and reportage.”
—Francine Prose, Harper's
“Masterly. . . . A stunning book, part memoir, part portrait of [Blackburn's] parents' generation. . . . Rawly human, bleakly funny, and insightful.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Searing, shocking, unflinching. . . . [Blackburn's] considerable literary output attests both to her talent for imaginative observation and to her remarkable knack for survival.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Luminous. . . . [Blackburn] makes clear that she loves her damaged parents, who obviously bequeathed to her a vivid, exploratory approach to the world, and she lets us understand them through telling detail.”
—The Washington Post Book World
“It may have been a long, painful time coming, but this book was worth the wait.”
—Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Despite the darkness of the rooms she re-enters, Blackburn's book isn't gloomy in the least . . . However unforgiving her detail, tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner is the message of this extraordinary book."
—Blake Morrison, The Guardian
"This memoir has warmth and love it's hard to imagine could have been possible. Readers be warned--this is no misery-lit memoir. There's something else going on entirely. [The Three of Us] is also a work of art in itself: a careful weaving in and out of personal memories and present pain to create something remarkable.'
"Gripping . . . What sets Blackburn's memoir apart is her extraordinary ability to sit on the edges of her own drama, to notice the texture, cadence and scent of these lives and to capture the experience with a painterly precision . . . An unnerving book about manipulation and loss, and about the complicated burdens families inflict on one another down through the generations. As a literary memoir of a lost childhood, it is remarkable as much for its candour as its craftsmanship."
—The Sunday Times
"Blackburn details her first sixteen years . . . in such as ingenuous, matter-of-fact manner that she somehow manages to make terrible events seem almost funny . . . The resulting memoir is mesmerizing and brilliant."
"This is an astonishing memoir, brave and exquisitely written. The story is riveting, and its ending takes us as well as Blackburn by surprise as her mother's dying becomes the occasion for something that goes beyond reconciliation--a time of grace on both parts. Everything we think we know about families and sex and mother-daughter relations is called into question as Blackburn's unsparing eye is joined by her remarkably open heart." —Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice and Kyra: A Novel.