If Only You People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir

Catapult
4
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A quirkily mesmerizing debut memoir about a dysfunctional family wracked by alcoholism and drug addiction. Bittersweet and wryly funny.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
 
If Only You People Could Follow Directions is a spellbinding debut by Jessica Hendry Nelson. In linked autobiographical essays, Nelson has reimagined the memoir with her thoroughly original voice, fearless writing, and hypnotic storytelling. At its center, the book is the story of three people: Nelson’s mother Susan, her brother Eric, and Jessica herself. These three characters are deeply bound to one another, not just by the usual ties of blood and family, but also by a mother’s drive to keep her children safe in the midst of chaos.
 
The book begins with Nelson’s childhood in the suburbs of Philadelphia and chronicles her father’s addiction and death, her brother’s battle with drugs and mental illness, her own efforts to find and maintain stability, and her mother’s exquisite power, grief, and self-destruction in the face of such a complicated family dynamic. Each chapter in the book contends with a different relationship—friends, lovers, and strangers are all in play—but at its heart the book is about family, the ties that bind and enrich and betray us, and how one young woman sought to survive and rise above her surroundings.
 
“A kaleidoscopic look at the way abuse resonates down through generations like a bell . . . unflinchingly honest.” —Elle
 
“Nelson’s voice is assertive and meaningful, with moments of wry wit and despair . . . her refreshing style makes the essays meld together with grace and fluidity.” —Philadelphia City Paper
 
“Gradual revelation and occasional surprise make these essays fresh and startling.” —The Boston Globe
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About the author

Jessica Hendry Nelson earned a BA in English from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Threepenny Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Alligator Juniper, Fringe, and PANK. A chapter from this book, "The Whitest Winter Light," is a Notable essay in Best American Essays 2012. Currently, she is the senior nonfiction editor of The Fiddleback, a literary journal, and lives in Colchester, Vermont.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Catapult
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Published on
Dec 31, 2013
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Pages
250
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ISBN
9781619023512
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Literary Figures
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Biography & Autobiography / Women
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States
 
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, AND BOSTON GLOBE BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW • ONE OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR • BILL GATES’S HOLIDAY READING LIST • FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE’S AWARD IN AUTOBIOGRAPHY • FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE’S JOHN LEONARD PRIZE FOR BEST FIRST BOOK • FINALIST FOR THE PEN/JEAN STEIN BOOK AWARD 

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post • O: The Oprah Magazine • Time • NPR • Good Morning America • San Francisco Chronicle • The Guardian • The Economist • Financial Times • Newsday • New York Post • theSkimm • Refinery29 • Bloomberg • Self • Real Simple • Town & Country • Bustle • Paste • Publishers Weekly • Library Journal • LibraryReads • BookRiot • Pamela Paul, KQED • New York Public Library

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

“Beautiful and propulsive . . . Despite the singularity of [Tara Westover’s] childhood, the questions her book poses are universal: How much of ourselves should we give to those we love? And how much must we betray them to grow up?”—Vogue

“Westover has somehow managed not only to capture her unsurpassably exceptional upbringing, but to make her current situation seem not so exceptional at all, and resonant for many others.”—The New York Times Book Review
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