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From Our House Paperback – May 1, 2001

4.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Relentlessly honest, Martin's account of growing up with an abusive parent is wise and healing. In 1956, when the author was a year old, his father lost both hands in a mechanical corn-picker on their Illinois farm. That tragic accident transformed Roy Martin into a bitter man who harbored a deep, corrosive rage that he vented on his son in sadistic beatings. Generous and friendly with neighbors and relatives, Roy was a strict and hypercritical parent. Though father and son enjoyed small pleasures together, Martin remained timid and fearful that he would never measure up, and he desperately tried to love and connect with the father whom he frequently despised. He walked a tightrope between his father's brutality and the abiding compassion of his soft-spoken, gentle mother, a schoolteacher who "lacked the courage to confront my father's rage or to escape it." While Martin never calls his mother an enabler or his father an abuser, by age 16, years of family dysfunction had turned him into a shoplifter, burglar and arsonist, putting him close to "becoming ruined beyond return." Martin, whose story collection The Least You Need to Know (winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize for short fiction) explored troubled father-son relationships, taps directly into his own psychic pain in this understated memoir. Both his parents are now dead, yet this moving family album, suffused with forgiveness and reconciliation, binds up the wounds. (June) FYI: Martin teaches creative writing at the University of North Texas and edits the American Literary Review.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The author of a book of short stories (The Least You Need To Know), Martin has written a memoir to read slowly and savor. He is born to an older couple. His father has hooks instead of hands owing to a farm accident, and his elementary-school teacher mother has trouble disciplining her students and soon loses her job in their rural community. They move to a more urban locale so that she can continue to teach and bring in money but eventually return to the area of their farm and families. Martin's father feels shame and rage over losing his hands, and Martin, who lacks the athletic and mechanical skills his father once possessed, is embarrassed by his own and his parents' physical shortcomings. Over the course of the memoir, Martin shows how he and his father learn to overcome their shame and control their rage. The honest and straightforward description of their relationship and their obvious affection for each other completely involve the reader. Highly recommended for all libraries.
-Gina Kaiser, Univ. of the Sciences, Philadelphia
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reissue edition (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452282543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452282544
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,062,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amos A. Magliocco on August 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Lee Martin's memoir "From Our House" is more than an unsettling portrayal of a unique American childhood or the clash of generational values that were the seeds of the Sixties. It aims beyond a painful depiction of how rebellion and cruelty, even betrayal, can be bound up and contained within the love of a family. In fact, at its most daring, it is a suggestion of the very nature of forgiveness: that even as an offense and heartbreak continues, the indictment is never made and final judgement, despite so much bitterness, never rendered. It suggests something about the human spirit very hard to believe and by the end of the book, impossible to deny.
Martin uses a strong grace to tell us of the accident that takes his father's hands on the farm. "I'm free to imagine that day anyway I'd like: a brilliant sun glinting off the picker, the dry leaves of the cornstalks scraping together in the wind; or perhaps it was overcast, the sky dark with the threat of rain, and perhaps the wind was cold on my father's face." It happens when Martin is a baby, this event that will shake his family so powerfully, releasing his father's terrible anger and shame, and his own struggle to understand, gain approval and finally forgive. Later in the book he imagines being present at the accident, older in this dream, and able to warn his father to turn off the tractor before manipulating the picker. He dreams of the power to prevent the accident that leaves the elder Martin with steel hooks to drive his car, hold a cup of coffee or touch his wife and son. Remarkably, at the conclusion, we're not sure Martin would want to change the past, or that we would have him do so.
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Format: Hardcover
Do you have fond memories of the summers of your youth? Lee Martin does. Do you remember the sometimes silly, fun times with family and friends during your youth? Lee Martin does. Do you remember the onset of rebellion and its attendant problems? Lee Martin does. Do you remember your father beating you repeatedly with a belt and inflicting both physical and mental abuse? Lee Martin does. Have you gone to the extraordinary step of describing your most private family secrets to the world? Lee Martin does. This memoir is an elegant story about growing up on a small farm in southern Illinois with a submissive, meek schoolteacher mother and a violent, abusive father that lost both hands in a farming accident. The accident left his father a frustrated, bitter, violent man that robbed Martin of the compassion and love he desperately needed. This story of the struggle between a father and his adolescent son is at times painful, complex, affectionate, violent and heartbreaking. But it is also a wonderful story of redemption, love, inspiration and forgiveness that make it special among the seemingly hundreds of memoirs being published today. Martin has written a very personal story in a clear, compassionate way that will leave the reader thinking about this book for a long time. It is not a sentimental book. It is a compassionate, powerful book about the conflicts between a father and his son and the ultimate resolution of their rivalries.It is safe to say that virtually all children have experienced hardships while growing up. Some more so than others. The difference is that Martin has written his experiences down for the entire world to see. It is not always a pretty sight but his ultimate resolution is a story the entire world needs to hear.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have just finished reading this memoir for the third time. It concerns Lee Martin's growing up with a maimed, rageful farmer father and a meek schoolteacher mother who was helpless in the face of her husband’s abuse.

Written with great tenderness and love for both his parents, From Our House astonishes me with its graceful prose, its evocative scenes, its easygoing but compelling narrative force, its poignant story.

Martin is a master at slipping into the action his older and wiser reflective self. Thus we get both the sensitive, troubled boy’s experience and the viewpoint of the sadder, wiser adult he became. The boy’s life and the man’s reflection convey exactly how enduring pain, regret, and anger—helplessly entwined with love—can ripple forever inside those from dysfunctional families.

But in the end, this memoir portrays a transformation that gives you great hope.

I am a student of the memoir genre and the author of one. This book is an all-time top five.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From our house is an incredible touching story that helped heal my heart. Having grown up in that rural part of Illinois that is the backdrop for this loving and honest tribute to a real family, I was able to put myself into the setting and heart of this story. The struggle of Lee's family due to loss and how they survived is ispirational. The love that inspired the book was strong enough to overcome the harshness that was a young boy's life. The descriptions of the time, area and the local characters were so incredibly accurate that I found myself in Sumner again, a child spending time with the loved ones who have passed on, smelling the smells, hearing their voices and seeing life as it was. An incredible book from truly gifted man.
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