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Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 01/2021
  • 9781952897061
  • 172 pages
  • $16.00
The Part That Burns

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

In her fiercely beautiful memoir, Jeannine Ouellette recollects fragments of her life and arranges them elliptically to witness each piece as torn and whole, as something more than itself. Caught between the dramatic landscapes of Lake Superior and Casper Mountain, between her stepfather’s groping and her mother’s erratic behavior, Ouellette lives for the day she can become a mother herself and create her own sheltering family. But she cannot know how the visceral reality of both birth and babies will pull her back into the body she long ago abandoned, revealing new layers of pain and desire, and forcing her to choose between her idealistic vision of perfect marriage and motherhood, and the birthright of her own awakening flesh, unruly and alive. The Part That Burns is a story about the tenacity of family roots, the formidable undertow of trauma, and the rebellious and persistent yearning of human beings for love from each other.
Reviews
Ouellette’s memoir is a mesmerizing narrative kaleidoscope centered on her struggle to come to terms with the abuse she endured as a child. When Ouellette was four years old, her mother’s second husband began to molest her, abuse that continued for years. Ouellette coped by searching for “doorways” that allowed her to escape into new worlds. Even after her mother’s relationship with the abuser ended, Ouellette’s rocky, unstable childhood eventually landed her in the foster care system. After she aged out, her own marriage and children inspired her to revisit her past, confront her trauma, and pen this remarkable book.

Ouellette eschews a traditional chronological approach, instead organizing the narrative into short vignettes, each related to a significant object or incident. This fragmented structure captures the complexity of Ouellette’s emotional journey by illuminating key events and themes from fresh angles and perspectives, the structure suggesting the actual workings of memory. Some readers may at first look for more sustained, synthesized reflection or more circumscribed resolutions, but Ouellette’s skillful arrangement of these vignettes allows the story to surge forward and backward in a way that both heightens anticipation and layers meaning onto her experiences, without disorienting attentive readers.

Within the vignettes, Ouellette tells her story with power, strength, and even surprises: She includes an autobiography she wrote in ninth grade, its youthful, polished sentences poignantly glossing over the darker truth of her life. A series of sections on “daughterhood,” co-written by her own daughter, puts both women’s perspectives in dialogue, intertwining their experiences while exploring their distinctions. These unique elements add further dimension to the rich themes of motherhood and memory, offering readers interpretive possibilities that are equally challenging and rewarding. Ouellette’s memoir inventively laces together her past, present, and future, resulting in an innovative yet deeply emotional reading experience.

Takeaway: This moving memoir will connect with thoughtful readers who are open to an unconventional exploration of living after abuse.

Great for fans of: Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Tara Westover’s Educated.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

News
05/20/2021
Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist in Women's Literature!

The Part That Burns was named a finalist in the Women's Literature category of the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the largest international awards program for indie authors and independent publishers.

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 01/2021
  • 9781952897061
  • 172 pages
  • $16.00

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