I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl by Kelle Groom
A Memoir

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Synopsis

At the age of fifteen, Kelle Groom found that alcohol allowed her to connect with people and explore intimacy in ways she’d never been able to experience before. She began drinking before class, often blacked out at bars, and fell into destructive relationships. At nineteen, already an out-of-control alcoholic, she was pregnant. Accepting the heartbreaking fact that she was incapable of taking care of her son herself, she gave him up for adoption to her aunt and uncle. They named him Tommy and took him home with them to Massachusetts. When he was nine months old, the boy was diagnosed with leukemia—but Kelle’s parents, wanting the best for her, kept her mostly in the dark about his health. When Tommy died he was only fourteen months old. Having lost him irretrievably, Kelle went into an accelerating downward spiral of self-destruction. She emerged from this free fall only when her desire to stop drinking connected her with those who helped her to get sober.

In stirring, hypnotic prose, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl explores the most painful aspects of Kelle’s addiction and loss with unflinching honesty and bold determination. Urgent and vital, exquisite and raw, her story is as much about maternal love as it is about survival, as much about acceptance as it is about forgiveness. Kelle’s longing for her son remains twenty-five years after his death. It is an ache intensified, as she lost him twice—first to adoption and then to cancer. In this inspiring portrait of redemption, Kelle charts the journey that led her to accept her addiction and grief and to learn how to live in the world. 

Through her family’s history and the story of her son’s cancer, Kelle traces with clarity and breathtaking grace the forces that shape a life, a death, and a literary voice.
 

About Kelle Groom

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Kelle Groom is the author of three poetry collections, Five Kingdoms (Anhinga, 2010), Luckily (Anhinga, 2006), and Underwater City (University Press of Florida, 2004). She has been published in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and Best American Poetry 2010, among others. Her work has received special mention in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Non-Required Reading anthologies.
 
Published June 7, 2011 by Free Press. 274 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl

Kirkus Reviews

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It was, she recalls, a “potion that chang[ed] me, [made] me unafraid.” The greater her need for alcohol became, the more out of control her life became.

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The New York Times

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Here, take it, my voice, my life, my child, here, take it.” The “material” of Groom’s life beyond Tommy — alcoholic blackouts starting at age 15, detox, rape, sobriety, relationships gained and lost and regained, her writing life — will immediately engage some readers and may cause other...

Aug 19 2011 | Read Full Review of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape...

Publishers Weekly

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Her writing is a wonderfully compelling mix of simple and lyrical: there are stream-of-consciousness fragments ("Chain-link fence, metal door like on a submarine") and contemplative sentences ("I hoped that by writing about Tommy, I could find him").

May 02 2011 | Read Full Review of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape...

New York Journal of Books

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“I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl appears to be an example of the difficulty some poets have in translating poetic images into effective prose.

Jun 07 2011 | Read Full Review of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape...

Huffington Post

Kelle Groom's nonfiction memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Free Press) is a title wave of emotions wrapped in heart-shaped box, a keepsake for all time.

Sep 07 2011 | Read Full Review of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape...

PopMatters

Kelle Groom’s wrenching memoir I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is a tough book to get through, not because it’s especially long or dense, but because the emotional terrain it covers is so harrowing.

Jan 04 2012 | Read Full Review of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape...

Seven Ponds

First, at giving her son away, then the unknowns that surround his death, and the loss, illness, and death of various friends, family, and loved ones throughout her life.

Jan 06 2012 | Read Full Review of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape...

Hippocampus Magazine

Here, take it, my voice, my life, my child, here, take it.” Central to Groom’s memoir are relationships and how those family, friends, co-workers, teachers, lovers, and one-night stands impacted her life.

Sep 01 2012 | Read Full Review of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape...

Brevity Magazine

I have never been an addict, have never lost a child, yet the way Groom articulates the deepest recesses of the female psyche made me feel a sense of recognition that I have never felt before.

May 03 2012 | Read Full Review of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape...

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