Happy Release Day to one of my favorite memoirs of the year, To The Moon and Back: A Childhood Under the Influence by Lisa Kohn!
If you have ever felt as if you don’t belong, this book is for you.
If you have ever felt as if you have to twist and turn to get your parents’ attention, this book is for you.
If you have struggled with self-destructive behavior in an effort to mitigate emotional pain, this book is for you.
Lisa and I both worked with the same publicist, who thought we'd be good friends and introduced us. Lisa and I have cheered each other on throughout the last year, and I think of her as my "debut sister." We've both been startled and fascinated by how similar our stories are, in spite of how different our childhoods were. Although we've never met in person, she's coming to Loganberry Books in Cleveland on Sunday, October 21st at 1:00pm, and we will finally get to see each other's faces in person. I hope my local friends will join us to hear her read and stick around to mingle afterwards.
Lisa Kohn’s memoir about growing up in Reverend Moon’s Unification Church startles with its clear descriptions of an unusual life, but it is her ability to dial down to the underlying confusion and emotion of a child that makes her story universal. We see her world through the narrator’s eyes, and so it doesn’t seem so radical or extreme. As Kohn writes, “When it’s all you know, it’s all you know.”
Torn between a mother who abandoned her children for religion and a father who was more committed to drugs than to parenting, Kohn’s memoir is a story of a girl and her brother left to pretty much raise themselves:
Kohn was forced to balance her desire to be pure and obedient with the need to fit in at high school in the 1970s—a complicated dance that inevitably led to missteps and perpetual guilt. Yet she kept going. Kohn kept moving forward, even when she didn’t want to, even when she didn’t know which way to go. She kept gaining more clarity, more insight. Lida Kohn managed to take the fragile, cracked shards of her life and turn them into something beautiful. To me, this is why I read memoir, both to find the universal threads that weave through us all, and for that moment of hope and redemption. I found plenty of both in To The Moon and Back.
What is striking about Kohn’s memoir is not only how honest she is in regard to her own failings, but how free from bitterness she manages to be. Kohn presents herself and her family as clearly as she can, and allows the reader to form our own judgement. I was happily surprised by how funny it was by turn—lines like, “I wore skirts to school after joining the Church. They were holier than pants.” lightened the mood, without distracting.
As the story follows Kohn through childhood and into adulthood, it is Kohn’s startling honesty that connects us to the narrator. We see a sad, confused girl, making her way through life as best she can, and we feel both her pain and anger as she challenges herself,
Kohn takes us along on her quest for redemption all the way through her adulthood, and it is a ride I won’t soon forget. To The Moon and Back will haunt you and exhilarate you in equal measure, and the story of this woman who had such an unusual childhood will linger long after you finish the final chapter.
Puchase Link: To The Moon and Back
Copyright © 2023 Lara Lillibridge
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