By David Canfield and Leah Greenblatt
April 01, 2019 at 02:30 PM EDT
Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Michael Joseph; Bloomsbury Publishing

The Light Years, by Chris Rush

Most people stretch to find enough material to fill a memoir; not visual artist Chris Rush, who only reaches his early 20s by the end of The Light Years — another blond Alice tumbling headlong into the kaleidoscopic wonderland of American counterculture in the 1960s and ’70s. Born into a family of wealthy, deeply dysfunctional East Coast Catholics, he discovers weed, boys, and LSD by age 12; when his distracted parents send him off to boarding school, it’s the beginning of a manifest destiny that leads him west. There’s a lot of darkness in Light, but Rush is a fantastically vivid writer, whether he’s remembering a New Jersey of “meatballs and Windex and hairspray” or the dappled, dangerous beauty of Northern California, where “rock stars lurked like lemurs in the trees.” Read if you loved… Just Kids by Patti Smith—Leah Greenblatt

Grade: A-

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, by T Kira Madden

Madden details her years growing up queer in ritzy South Florida through a tough, raw literary voice. The debut author gives readers uncomfortably intimate access into her difficult childhood: coming of age with an abusive and often absent father (who married her mother only after she was born), and helping her mother through a worsening drug addiction. (A chapter called “The Greeter” triumphantly confronts the latter topic.) But as the title indicates, this is ultimately a memoir of sisterhood; Madden gradually finds a community beyond her troubled family life. Long Live is a bit dense at times, stuck in its immediacy, but as it builds to the death of Madden’s father, it finds some peace, painfully messy as it may be — and is all the richer for it. Read if you loved… Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. —David Canfield

Grade: B

The Salt Path, by Raynor Winn 

As The Salt Path begins, Raynor Winn and her husband, Moth, find their lives upended in an instant: They lose their farm, where they resided and raised their children, after a string of bad luck; Moth is then diagnosed with a terminal illness. But this fiftysomething couple makes an unthinkable choice in response. Rather than let time pass by, they’ll hike England’s windy South West Coast Path in its entirety — all 630 chilly, arduous miles. A death sentence? Not quite. In polished, poignant prose, Winn reveals how their journey heals Moth slowly but surely, and brings them closer together — landing as an inspiring story of true love. “We lay homeless and penniless under the stars,” she writes. “We had lost everything…but we had the wet grass and the rhythm of the sea.” Read if you loved… Wild by Cheryl Strayed. —DC

Grade: A- 

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