Review of Blood: A Memoir by Allison Moorer
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
"I'm still trying not to be the daughter of a murderer. I'm still trying to redeem [my parents]. I carry the structure of their bones around my insides...and try to tell the world, '...They were more than that.'"
Allison Moorer is a Grammy- and Academy Award- nominated singer-songwriter whose father killed her mother when Allison and her sister were young. A longtime musical storyteller, Moorer examines her parents, her youth, and that pivotal tragedy, considering how it has shaped her into her adult self and how much of her identity is (and how much can be) separate from that horrifying event and its endless repercussions.
I didn't know of the author before her memoir began garnering attention. Blood: A Memoir reads like her journal; Moorer sifts through memories, looks through photos, celebrates her parents' joyful moments, curses their weaknesses, and feels devastation at the horrific tragedy that in some ways felt inevitable; in hindsight, her parents' relationship was like a train speeding down a track toward a cliff. She does all of this gorgeously, sharing feelings, mental snapshots, carefully considered possibilities, and frank reality.
There's a lot of pain here. But Blood doesn't read as though Moorer is flogging her significant sorrow and anger or highlighting dramatic events for memoir or record sales. I felt like I was following her on her honest, zigzagging, messy journey toward gaining more of an understanding of the people her parents were and the forces that shaped their lives (and their daughters' lives)--as though I was witnessing her step-by-step movement toward something that more closely resembles peace.
Late in the book Moorer notes, "I learned to hold my fists up to the world to try to protect myself from being seen...." and says that she has often found it impossible to let down her protective wall and be vulnerable. Yet she is sentimental about the people who made her, instilled a love of music in her, and raised her--although not always competently--until she was a young teenage woman. They weren't perfect, but they were her parents, and she still sings their songs, tries to redeem them, and lives out some of their dreams.
The foreword was written by Allison's sister, singer and songwriter Shelby Lynne. Regarding their talking through their past together, Moorer says, "So many memories we share and purposely keep well-oiled. We keep them alive even if they hurt us and suck up all the air in the room. They are all we have of our folks and the family we were."
In Blood, Moorer, after years of therapy, reflection, and working through her enormous rage and loss, sets a goal of trying to be gentler with herself. As far as trying to sort through the addiction and abuse that led to her parents' early deaths, she notes, "I do know I can't spend all of myself on it, for there are, with any hope, a lot of days left to be reckoned with, work to do, real love to be learned about, and a son to raise."
Moorer's love of music (including her passion to write, sing, and harmonize) links many of these memories and pages. I listened to Lynne and Moorer's joint album, Not Dark Yet, while reading this book, and it was a beautiful backdrop.
What did you think?
I first mentioned this book in the Greedy Reading List Three Memoirs I'm Reading Now, 10/7/20 Edition.
You might also like the list Six Illuminating Memoirs I've Read This Year.