[Book Review] Irreversible Things, by Lisa Van Orman Hadley

Irreversible Things

by Lisa Van Orman Hadley

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This book is by a dear friend of mine, and stunning literary talent, Lisa Van Orman Hadley.

I don’t usually read a lot of non-fiction, or auto biography, but Irreversible Things blends together both in a beautiful and creative narrative that really captivated me. Each chapter is an exploration of the author’s life in a format that expands beyond the typical biography-style fiction narrative.

Starting with a ‘Table of Discontents’ the playful and thought-provoking narration introduces us to the author’s family and her childhood, building on a series of pivotal life events, including the ultimate Irreversible Things chapter: the violent murder of her next door neighbor’s mother told in backwards time order, as experienced by the 8 year old narrator.

Throughout the book, the author invokes a range of tones and emotions by her varied use of creative formats – a glossary of terms showcasing her mother’s endearingly creative use of swear words, a catalog of states they have left behind in their relocation from Florida to Utah, and even a chapter titled “Puberty in Six Acts” including the awkwardness that is pre-teen sexuality, compounded by awkward parenting.

The narration style left me thinking about each story long afterward; the ripple effect a pivot moment creates in our lives, and how the stories we build around those memories (individually, and as a family unit) stay with us into adulthood. The book is divided into two parts – childhood and adulthood, with the later years full of the ultimate struggles – infertility, a parent’s Alzheimers, family relationships, and even religion. There is just so much to unpack and enjoy in this book – readers may find themselves picking it up again and again. I know I have.

About the Author

Lisa Van Orman Hadley graduated from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. She received the Larry Levis post-graduate fellowship, a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant, and a Millay Colony fellowship to work on Irreversible Things. Her stories have most recently appeared in EpochNew England Review, and The Collagist. (Photo Credit: Niels Jensen)

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