An Alphabetical Life
by Wendy Werris


Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006. ISBN 078671817X.
Reviewed by Carol Feder
Posted on 02/03/2007

Nonfiction: Memoir

Wendy Werris' An Alphabetical Life, from its catchy title to the full-circle ending, is smart, crisp, and poignant. This is a memoir of Werris' life as a book publisher's sales representative, and her personal life folding and unfolding into her career along the way.

I must have highlighted hundreds of words and phrases as my own personal teaching tool on how to write a most charming memoir. Werris surely must have initially intended to document her lifetime of experiences in the ever-evolving world of book publishing and selling. Yet, she ended up pouring her intimate personal world right into the evolutional mix.

Intricately threaded throughout is the story of the author's spirit-shattering experience of being violently raped in her own home. She writes with clarity of her most delicate survival thoughts during the moments of the rape. Those writings will remain with me forever. She documents the return of the rapist, phone calls taped by the police, and the eventual disappearance of any evidence.

Sweet vignettes of her family life frame this memoir, including the eventual demise of her father's career as a comedy writer. Famous names of famous comedians of a time gone by showcase the years of her life's story. Werris decorates the beginning of each chapter with an introspective quote from a notable author. My favorite, a quote by Anne Lamott, appears at the beginning of Chapter Three: "I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us."

The author's use of metaphors in this remarkable memoir is her strongest shining sign of a dynamic writer, including everything from "...a voice like a Rolls Royce engine in need of an oil change..." to "...I felt the tremor of a hairline crack in the diameter of my inner world..."

Any and all book readers, book writers, and book lovers will enjoy not only Werris' writing precision, but also the behind-the-scenes education in the world of book publishing and book selling.

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