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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

House of Happy Endings: A Memoir by Leslie Garis, 2007 * * * *

Artfully stitched like a well-made quilt, Leslie Garis's memoir encompass three generations - her grandmother Lilian, who wrote the early Bobbsey Twins, grandfather Howard Garis, who created and virtually became Uncle Wiggily, and her father Roger Garis, a playwright, novelist and magazine writer. Along with her mother and brothers, they all inhabited a vast home in Amherst, Massachusetts,  known as "The Dells", where Robert Frost and Tennessee Williams were frequent visitors. Roger Garis, Leslie’s father, aimed higher than his parents,  but withered in their shadows, descending into mental illness characterized by raging mood swings, drug abuse, and bouts of debilitating and destructive depression. In this spellbinding memoir , Lesie Garis chronicles how the years damaged her father, mother; and  brothers. In lesser hands, the quarrels, litigation and violence might control the narrative, as the family copes with disappointment, financial stress, nervous breakdowns, physical illness and death. However, Garis's capacity for conveying the family's vibrancy and vigor triumphs with unsentimental affection, grace and painful honesty. I was privileged to know Mabel Garis, Leslie’s mother, when I lived in Amherst and this story is a true testament to her character.

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