If you are in the mood for a good cry, have I got two memoirs for you!
First is Stephanie Wittels Wachs’ Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss, about losing her brother, Harris Wittels, to a heroin overdose. If you’re like me, you know Harris as a writer from “Parks & Rec” who also played one of the stoner animal control guys. He did a lot more in the comedy world that I was unfamiliar with, particularly the fact that he’s the person who coined the term #humblebrag.
I read this one shortly after Sister #2 & Ben announced they were selling their house and Ben and Walter were moving back to Portland. So, I was already feeling a kind of loss, which is perhaps why Wittels Wachs’ book resonated with me on such a bone-deep level.
Wittels Wachs’ memoir recounts the year after Harris’ death. From the moment she got the call that Harris’ was dead right up to the anniversary. She is all the things someone who just lost a much-loved sibling is — angry, sad, scared, unsure, curious — all of this is imbued with humor. She’s funny, like her brother. And even the parts that are just straight up heart-wrenching there’s always a funny little reprieve.
What I loved the most about the book is that throughout it she addresses Harris directly and is kinda salty with him for leaving her alone to deal with their parents. I loved that you could get a real feel for their sibling dynamic, and that made me all the sadder that she lost him.
The other memoir I read that made me snot my face off was Erin Lee Carr’s All That You Leave Behind, which chronicles life with her dad, David Carr, and her own struggles with addiction.
Disclaimer: I have a soft spot for David Carr, who died in 2015, because he once told me I write like an angel.
Carr’s memoir does not sugarcoat anything — she shows her dad how she saw him, lumps and all. They fight, they makeup, sometimes she’s a sullen brat and sometimes he’s an unreasonable hardass. They both struggle with addictions and how those addictions didn’t always make them their best selves.
But through it all you can tell Carr not only loved her dad, but she admired him as a mentor (Carr is a documentarian who made the excellent “Mommy Dead and Dearest“). What I love about this one was not just how beautifully David Carr expressed his love for his daughter, but the smart advice he gave her when it came to her career.
More than a few tears were shed in this one, especially when she talked about how she and her dad bonded through music.
Oh, and one more thing while I’m on the grief memoir train, Nora McInerny’s No Happy Endings, did not make me cry, but it did make me laugh a bunch.