You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir

Atria/One Signal. Apr. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9781982185855. $28. MEMOIR
In her memoir, award-winning poet Smith (Good Bones) uses poetic vignettes to dissect the ending of her marriage and her journey toward self-love. Smith starts with her husband’s infidelity, something she tackled in her 2020 book, Keep Moving. She moves effortlessly between first and third person, short sections, repeating titles, and recurring themes to examine a life she never imagined for herself. The author never refers to her ex-husband (the addresser) or his lover (the addressee) by name, keeping them both on the outskirts of the new life she is creating. But her children, Violet and Rhett, play a central role as she leans on them, her family, and friends as she makes sense of motherhood, gender roles, and power dynamics that exist in every relationship. Through self-interrogation, Smith crafts her experiences into ones that connect to the larger struggles of women’s lives and how people work to create something new out of places in their lives that have ghosts and hold secrets.
VERDICT This innovative memoir will attract readers who are drawn to poetry hidden in well-written prose and memoirs and will appeal to those who seek meaning in reinventing their lives.
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