The Big Hurt tells two coming-of-age stories: one of a lost girl in a predatory world, and the other of that girl grown up, who in reckoning with her past ends up recreating it with a notorious LA crime novelist, blowing up her marriage and casting herself into the second exile of her life.
Sharp-tongued and darkly hilarious, it is also one of the more relentlessly honest, big-hearted reckonings with abuse to come out of the #MeToo era ... When you strip away Schickel’s cheeky, effervescent prose and charismatic self-deprecation, there is little to laugh at: compulsive shoplifting; self-absorbed, sort-of-famous parents in the midst of a 'spectacularly ugly zeitgeist divorce'; and a series of bleak, often exploitative sexual relationships with older boys and men ... It’s a sad story, and sadly common. But what makes The Big Hurt so singularly rich and harrowing...is that it percolated while Schickel was ensconced in a tumultuous, marriage-ending affair.
The memoir is well written, and the two intertwining stories are well-structured. However, the author is repetitive about certain elements...and sparse on others ... Schickel is a fluid writer and can be funny, occasionally hilarious, but when she strains toward humor amid a painful recollection, the humor often falls flat. Still, her narrative timing is often spot-on ... The scenes in which Schickel digs the deepest leave the longest-lasting impact—if only there were more of them ... A flawed yet affecting portrait of a vicious, repetitive cycle.