Ouellette recollects fragments of her life and arranges them elliptically to witness each piece as torn and whole, as something more than itself. Caught between the landscapes of Lake Superior and Casper Mountain, between her stepfather’s groping and her mother’s erratic behavior, Ouellette lives for the day she can become a mother herself and create her own sheltering family.
In the exploration of the abuse, it has echoes of the memoirs of Mary Karr, Jeannette Walls, and Tara Westover ... a meditation on healing and resiliency in the face of the harm and havoc wreaked by others — some intentional, some situational, all hurtful ... That these narrators maintain such objectivity throughout the book is testament, no doubt, both to the extent of Ouellette’s healing and to her commitment to her craft, as whole passages beg to be read again and again for their lyricism, humility, and beauty ... A clear, unflinching eye — whether aimed at the Trauma inflicted upon her or the trauma she extends to her husband and daughter — means the reader can trust this narrator ... Like a good meditation practice, it is the work of this book to observe the physical facts of a life without judgement, knowing that, if we can be patient, we will eventually find inner stability and acceptance, even when, or especially when, the external world erupts in chaos.
... calm, engaging and affecting without being devastating. The details of her abuse at a very young age by her stepfather are treated with a reasonable amount of delicacy, and like the cult classic The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch, which has a similar subject, the memoir is beautifully written and interestingly constructed ... Tell all the truth but tell it slant, said Emily Dickinson — another way of describing what Ouellette accomplishes here. All the truth, and many slants, like the angles of sun through the hours of a day.
A key characteristic of Ouellette’s writing is her preoccupation with nature, as she calmly skips between accounts of her past and factual information about the natural world...On occasion, these observations serve as distractions from personal pain; in other instances, they mirror the author’s emotional state...The memoir also eloquently describes how the effects of abuse resonate into adulthood...The presentation of the author’s life story as a series of fragments may strike some readers as idiosyncratic; however, this structure poignantly reflects a self-described 'brokenness' ... A textured remembrance of a traumatic childhood that also offers affecting moments of beauty.