Review: Stripping Down to the Bones by Merry Clark ★★★★

Stripping Down to the Bones by Merry Clark

Either you get a job, get married, and have kids, or you go to Hollywood. Or you join a cult. It appears there really aren’t that many options in life after all.

Stripping Down to the Bones: A Memoir by Merry Clark is an honest, engaging, funny, and heartfelt read.

This memoir is about a woman who grows up in the Midwest. She’s attractive, educated, funny, and caring, but she can’t seem to find her place in life. Her story takes place at the University of Michigan, Colorado, Los Angeles, and the backwoods in Michigan. During the course of the memoir it’s clear the author is struggling to discover who she is and what she wants out of life.

It takes a special kind of courage to pen one’s memoir. It’s hard enough to take a hard look at your life, including mistakes, struggles, triumphs, and complicated relationships, but to share your self-discovery with the world takes guts.

Most of the time, people will avoid taking stock of their life. But Clark does. And her accounting goes back to the beginning and she itemizes the major turning points in her life and asks herself difficult questions. Her introspection allows the reader to get inside her head, which can be uncomfortable at times. Her willingness to open up completely is shocking and makes for addictive reading.

The only man I ever met who was sharp did not want marriage, and was then snatched away by a cult. Men who want marriage are usually boring and conventional. The only group they’d join is a bowling league.

While not all readers will be able to relate to the bumps in her life (how many have actually flirted with joining a hardcore religious cult?) but most will be able to relate to having disappointments, questions, and fears. Right from the start, it’s clear that Clark has not led a typical life, even though it’s unclear how to define a typical life in today’s world. The main source of trauma stems from her personal relationships, especially with men. At least, that’s what she focuses on mostly in Stripping Down to the Bones.

The memoir starts at the beginning of her life, however, she has a habit of starting a new thread on a whim or dropping it just as quickly. It can be disconcerting, but in a way, it helps the reader believe the words she’s reading. It feels like a linear stream of consciousness and it’s easy to picture Clark penning the words while she’s actually reliving the memories and thoughts they stir as they jump into her mind. Her raw emotions and frankness lure the reader into her world entirely and it’s not always a comfortable place to be.

Life is messy. No matter who you are. And if you’re filled with doubts, fears, failed relationships,  health issues, and economic uncertainty on top of everyday life, it can get really messy. For the reader, Clark’s memoir is definitely original, which makes for great entertainment, but it also makes the reader feel slightly guilty for peeking into her life and seeing everything, even though she’s invited us in.

It’s more than entertainment, though. Stripping Down to the Bones is a wonderful example of how to come to terms with one’s life. Not all of us are brave enough to do it, but when reading such a work as this, it’s hard not to feel proud of the author for being able to dig into her own life with such merciless honesty and for sharing it with the rest of us.

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Stripping Down to the Bones

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