“The staccato style of this searing memoir enhances the harshness and emotional power of what is a frightening story by a brave author, who resolutely describes herself as ‘a long-distance runner through the canyon of childhood’—a modest understatement. An unstinting portrayal of psychological abuse, both insightful and precisely told.” (John Irving)
“An Abbreviated Life (Harper), an explosive new memoir from acclaimed journalist Ariel Leve, chronicles Leve’s dismal childhood under the primary care of her riveting, glamourous, intellectual, and ultimately incredibly destructive mother. . . . In the company of captivating memoirists Mary Karr and Alexandra Fuller.” (Elle)
“A powerful and frequently devastating account of a childhood without boundaries and dominated by loneliness, chaos and fear. Leve’s recollections can be brutal but are made digestible by the elegant sparseness of her prose.” (The Guardian)
“Mesmerizing... A portrait of something familiar gone wildly, tragically awry.” (New York Times)
“Leve…writes in beautiful, staccato sentences and weaves her own story together masterfully.” (Evening Standard (London))
“Leve’s prose is soulful, cryptic, musing.” (Sheila Weller, New York Observer)
“Ariel Leve’s haunting memoir about life with her unpredictable mother is maddening, devastating and consuming.” (Minnesota Public Radio, "Best Books of 2016")
“An Abbreviated Life adds a harrowing chapter to the great tragi-comedy called “We Don’t Get To Choose Our Parents.” Ariel Leve’s extremely readable memoir is, at its heart, a story about surviving childhood—a trick we must all perform. Even in its raw extremes, her story is a universal one.” (Richard Ford)
“Out of a childhood that seems just about impossible to have survived, Ariel Leve has written a haunting, indelible story that becomes its own form of redemption. This is an act of bravery that strikes me not only as a literary achievement, but a human one.” (Dani Shapiro)
“Unsparing. . . . riveting and evokes with clarity the emotional turmoil of being subjected to the constant needs of a narcissistic parent.” (Jon Ronson, The Guardian)
“Leve’s powerful story of surviving her brutal childhood demonstrates that contentment can be found.” (Publishers Weekly)
“A candid rendering of pain and survival.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Leve writes of learning to be constantly on guard, living ‘an abbreviated life,’ and how she finally found her way out. Hers is an unsentimental tale, both cautionary and heartening.” (BBC.com)
“Exquisitely written.” (Lynn Barber, The Sunday Times (London))
“Electric reading . . . brave, calm testimony.” (The Spectator)
From the Back Cover
In this extraordinary memoir, Ariel Leve takes us through the looking glass into the life of an only child growing up under siege. The unconventional world Ariel inhabited was dominated by her mother, a gifted but unstable poet without boundaries or self-restraint. Mother and daughter lived in a penthouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the setting for raucous parties that attracted New York’s cultural and intellectual elite: Gloria Steinem, Norman Mailer, and Andy Warhol, to name a few. For all its glamour, this was a universe that was neither predictable nor safe.
With her beloved father living in Southeast Asia, young Ariel was left to navigate an emotionally perilous landscape alone. It took four decades before she was able to make sense of the aftershocks of childhood. Unflinchingly, and with ferocious candor, Leve trains her writer’s eye on the harrowing circumstances of her life with (and without) her mother, and transforms the chaos into art.
In stripped-down, elegant prose, Leve paints an indelible portrait of her upbringing and the long fight to tunnel her way out of the darkness. An Abbreviated Life heralds the arrival of a fearless new voice in the literary firmament.