5 hours 9 min. | Harper Audio | Non-Fiction | Release Date: 7/28/2020
I’ve finally been in the mood for nonfiction again and picked this one up while browsing the new release shelf with no context whatsoever. I skim read it was about a murder and thought it was maybe true crime (it’s not). I didn’t even look at the cover long enough to realize Tretheway is a Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate.
Memorial Drive feels less like a memoir and more like a eulogy to Trethway’s mother, who was shot and killed by her abusive ex-husband in 1985 while Tretheway was away at college. The book begins with Tretheway’s experiences growing up as a biracial girl in 1960s South, she takes us along through all of the triumphs and heartbreaks she faces with her mother as they make their way to Atlanta for a new life together.
Tretheway has a Pulitzer Prize in poetry so it’s no surprise that the writing is amazing. There is a large section where the narrative voice switches to second person and it is done flawlessly. I was listening to this on audio and it took me a minute to even realized she’d switched.
Speaking of the audiobook, Tretheway is a great narrator as she relays her story. The book includes transcripts of phone taps between her mother and her eventual murderer the day before he killed her and I can’t imagine those were easy to read.
At one point Tretheway says when she hears songs she and her mother loved she feels a kind of “joy tinged grief” and that is the perfect way to describe this haunting memoir. I have a feeling this will be making an appearance come National Book Award season.