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Diana Estill, author

At age five, Diana conducts the family’s banking, grocery shops alone, and befriends the town drunk. Her father is too busy chasing skirts and throwing fits to notice what she’s doing. And her mom is too mentally absent to care. While her narcissistic dad terrorizes and exploits her, Diana works harder to please him. Like a conjoined twin, she can't separate her needs from his. As an adult, she struggles to reclaim her power while caring for her dementia-impaired dad. In this inspirational tale of resilience and recovery, the author shines a light into the fog (fear, obligation, and guilt) of emotional abuse.


Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 8.50 out of 10


Idea: In Clarity, Estill recounts her harrowing journey as the daughter of a narcissistic, sexually exploitative father and a passive-aggressive, enabling mother. In the tradition of The Liar's Club and Running with Scissors, the book is a testament to the slow, painful process of reclaiming oneself from the wreckage of the past after a lifetime spent suffering under the despotism of a mentally ill parent.

Prose/Style: Estill writes with the wit and grit of Mary Karr and Jeanette Walls. Although, like theirs, her subject matter is anything but funny, the author manages to find humor in relating the absurd and often brutal situations her feckless father imposes on her and the rest of the family his madness holds in thrall.

Originality: While the precocious plunge into premature adult responsibilities forced upon the children of mentally unstable parents will be a familiar on to readers of The Liar's Club and The Glass Castle, Estill's voice is both fresh and vigorous. Her narrative captures the terror, pain and yes, even the hilarious aspects of a life lived in a home governed by the whims of a dictatorial, emotionally underdeveloped egomaniac, and the poignancy of growing into an adult unable to fully disengage from the responsibilities of loving a parent who demonstrates only unending demands and relentless abuse in return.

Character Development/Execution: Told with sardonic wit and unflinching candor, the narrative hums with tension between the smart, savvy survivor of a daughter and the monstrous, Santini-like, sexually exploitative father. While this is not a comfortable book to read, it is a memorable one.

Date Submitted: January 11, 2021