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REVIEW of Lifesaving: a Memoir

By Mary Gordon, Robert Kotlowitz and Gini Alhadeff, judges for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir, naming Lifesaving a finalist

Judith Barrington’s memoir Lifesaving is a graceful, unsentimental account of how she finally saw through what she calls, “the energetic cloak of normality.” Her parents are drowned when their ship catches fire and, long after the accident, Barrington forces open “the stubborn door to sadness,” and discovers in herself the well-adjusted orphan every artist must be. There are trysts, proposals of marriage towards “keeping up heterosexual appearances,” but a “secret life,” too, and endless miles driven along the Mediterranean coast in a sports car to arrive one day, years later, at her parents’ grave in Gibraltar and to conclude that the greatest danger is the fear of what you fear the most. Lifesaving is about a life once again saved in and by a writer’s memory.

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