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.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
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.