STARRED REVIEW
September 2017

Rising above

By Kelly Grey Carlisle
Review by

Throughout her stunningly powerful memoir, We Are All Shipwrecks, Kelly Grey Carlisle runs a finger over everything, from the tide-pool sea creatures she inspected as a child to photographs of the mother she never met. That thoughtful touch reveals dark complexities and provokes her curiosity, which becomes her lifeboat as she searches for truth.

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Throughout her stunningly powerful memoir, We Are All Shipwrecks, Kelly Grey Carlisle runs a finger over everything, from the tide-pool sea creatures she inspected as a child to photographs of the mother she never met. That thoughtful touch reveals dark complexities and provokes her curiosity, which becomes her lifeboat as she searches for truth.

Raised by Richard, her eccentric, self-absorbed grandfather, and his much younger wife, Marilyn, on a yacht that “looked something like a three-tiered wedding cake” in a run-down California marina, Carlisle knew little about her mother, a 23-year-old prostitute brutally murdered by a killer who was never caught, and even less about her father. Left behind in a motel drawer at 3 weeks of age, Carlisle grew up asking many questions and receiving ever-changing answers. Life with her grandfather was anything but stable, and even succeeding as a competitive swimmer in high school meant little at home: Richard simply missed having her there in time for dinner.

It was the good company of her equally unconventional, often down-and-out neighbors living on the pier that sustained Carlisle and fed her desire to move on from her life on the harbor. Finally, after college, marriage and the birth of her daughter, Carlisle seems to have found the balance she was looking for. Richard once told her, “Blood is important. Where you come from is important. It’s who you are.” Yet clearly, Carlisle’s pursuit of her past is also about whom she chose to become, and what it took to get her there.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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We Are All Shipwrecks

We Are All Shipwrecks

By Kelly Grey Carlisle
Sourcebooks
ISBN 9781492645207

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