Zero Proof: Lit

In the latest episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I discuss Mary Karr’s third memoir, “Lit,” detailing her heavy drinking days and eventual recovery and conversion to Catholicism. We talk about the art of writing memoir, the unique shame of drinking as a mother, spirituality, and lots more.

Listen to the new episode here, at, and follow us on Instagram at @zeroproofbookclub.

This book represents a positive turning point for my eventual sobriety, feeling a familiarity with Karr’s alcoholic anger and a longing for her hard-won sober peace. But Shelley, who read it a couple years after she quit drinking, had a different experience with the book.

Karr is a professional writer and a dedicated AA-er (in “Lit” she calls it “the therapy group for people trying to quit”), so you know she’s all about her coffee. Our newest podcast episode, in which we discuss Karr’s gorgeous, painful memoir about her alcoholism and recovery, pairs well with this iced coffee drink. For this upgrade on black coffee in a styrofoam cup, we poured cold brew coffee over ice and stirred in a little maple syrup and oat milk (pick your favorite creamer or non-dairy milk).

About “Lit: A Memoir”

What to expect: A groundbreaking entry in the quit lit canon, served with a side of southern sass and literary acuity

From the book jacket: “‘The Liars’ Club’ brought to vivid, indelible life Mary Karr’s hardscrabble Texas childhood. “Cherry,” her account of her adolescence, ‘continued to set the literary standard for making the personal universal’ (Entertainment Weekly).

Now, ‘Li’t follows the self-professed blackbelt sinner’s descent into the inferno of alcoholism and madness—and to her astonishing resurrection. Karr’s longing for a solid family seems secure when her marriage to a handsome, Shakespeare-quoting blueblood poet produces a son they adore. But she can’t outrun her apocalyptic past. She drinks herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of suicide. A hair-raising stint in ‘The Mental Marriott,’ with an oddball tribe of gurus and saviors, awakens her to the possibility of joy and leads her to an unlikely faith. Not since Saint Augustine cried, ‘Give me chastity, Lord-but not yet!’ has a conversion story rung with such dark hilarity.

‘Lit’ is about getting drunk and getting sober, becoming a mother by letting go of a mother, learning to write by learning to live. Written with Karr’s relentless honesty, unflinching self-scrutiny, and irreverent, lacerating humor, it is a truly electrifying story of how to grow up—as only Mary Karr can tell it.”

— Lit: A Memoir

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