Fault Line

Fault Line

by Laurie Alberts
     
 
In 1969 Kim Janik was a young man shining with promise—handsome, brilliant, studying at Harvard on a physics scholarship—and he was in love with Laurie Alberts, a troubled teenager from a wealthy Boston suburb. Twenty-five years later, when Kim’s naked and decomposing body was discovered on the Wyoming prairie, one photograph—that of the

Overview

In 1969 Kim Janik was a young man shining with promise—handsome, brilliant, studying at Harvard on a physics scholarship—and he was in love with Laurie Alberts, a troubled teenager from a wealthy Boston suburb. Twenty-five years later, when Kim’s naked and decomposing body was discovered on the Wyoming prairie, one photograph—that of the Harvard junior and the seventeen-year-old—was found in his abandoned car. This book is Alberts’s attempt to piece together what happened in between. An accomplished novelist, Alberts brings to her task the searching intelligence, clear-eyed candor, and narrative grace that have marked her previous books. She painstakingly recreates her turbulent relationship with Kim and traces the twisted course that led to his eventual ruin.

A story of obsessive love, societal upheaval, and the warring impulses of survival and self-destruction, Fault Line moves beyond the limits of the traditional memoir into the realms of biography and literary journalism. With interviews and letters, Alberts augments her lucid reflections in an effort to comprehend Kim’s life and death and her place in both. The result is a singular work that melds the inner and outer worlds with a seamless intensity.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
"In this latest entry in the American Lives series, novelist Alberts writes a candid, self-lacerating memoir about her first love. . . . A thoughtful, wrenching portrait of obsessive love."—Booklist
ForeWord

"The essence of Alberts’s writing in this book is that she is telling the truth. Her use of metaphor allows readers to sense the story's stark reality. . . . Her descriptions evoke a sense of awe at the scenery, tempered by the rawness of Laurie’s journey of self-discovery. . . . Laurie reached within the chasms of her soul, and crossed over her own fault line."—Cheryl Freier, ForeWord

— Cheryl Freier

Rocky Mountain News
"Laurie Alberts has crafted her raw, devastatingly honest memoir with the language skills of a poet."—Rocky Mountain News
Speakeasy

"[A] piercing memoir. . . . [T]his is an utterly compelling elegy, a courageous and remorseful confession, and a candid and affecting inquiry into responsibility, influence, and fate."—Donna Seaman, Speakeasy

— Donna Seaman

Robin Hemley
"Fault Line is as compelling a piece of nonfiction as I have read. Alberts expertly weaves a story that feels honest to the bone and leaves the reader raw and bereft yet grateful for such a skillful and heartfelt tale."

-Robin Hemley, author of Invented Eden

Chip Brown
"This beautifully written and unself-sparing memoir rips open the wounds of first love in search of what one person can be held accountable for in the ruin of another."

-Chip Brown, author of Good Morning Midnight

Abby Frucht
"In a book unrivaled in its precision of memory, Laurie Alberts describes a personal era marked by a definitive historical time. Her friend Kim's peculiar expatriation and mysterious death inspire Alberts's quest-even as they mark that quest as nearly unnavigable, a fault line running between past and present, its sorrows the margins, its solace the faintest, quaking epicenter."

-Abby Frucht, author of Licorice and Are You Mine?

Melissa MacKenzie
"As non-fiction, the narrative gives a distressing glimpse of the less-glamorous, sordid world of drug and alcohol addiction that went hand-in-hand in many cases during a decade often symbolized by happy, pot-smoking hippies and Beatles music. As a memoir, "Fault Line" is a well-written atonement, a requiem."

--Melissa MacKenzie, Vermont Sunday Magazine

ForeWord - Cheryl Freier
"The essence of Alberts’s writing in this book is that she is telling the truth. Her use of metaphor allows readers to sense the story's stark reality. . . . Her descriptions evoke a sense of awe at the scenery, tempered by the rawness of Laurie’s journey of self-discovery. . . . Laurie reached within the chasms of her soul, and crossed over her own fault line."—Cheryl Freier, ForeWord
Speakeasy - Donna Seaman
"[A] piercing memoir. . . . [T]his is an utterly compelling elegy, a courageous and remorseful confession, and a candid and affecting inquiry into responsibility, influence, and fate."—Donna Seaman, Speakeasy
Library Journal
In this painful memoir, novelist Alberts (The Price of Land in Shelby) recounts her journey to come to grips with the death of her first love. In 1969, the author was a troubled high schooler when she met Kim Janek, a junior at Harvard with a future in physics. Although Janek appeared to have found his soulmate in the 17-year-old Alberts, and she is still haunted by him, their relationship was plagued by problems from the start: Alberts had grown up in a dysfunctional family, and Janek was on his way to becoming an alcoholic. After moving on, Alberts spent many years lost and searching before she was finally able to settle into a calm domestic life and a strong professional career. When she learned of Janek's premature death 25 years later, she began to piece together how he ended up dying alone on the Wyoming prairie, with an old picture of the two of them in his abandoned car. Exploring what role she might have played in his tragic life and death, Alberts lays open her own life and youthful indiscretions, ultimately coming across as simply human. The result is poignant, if painful, reading. Highly recommended for libraries collecting contemporary fiction and literary memoirs.-Karen Sandlin Silverman, Ctr. for Applied Research, Philadelphia Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Queasy-making memoir from novelist Alberts (Lost Daughters, 1999, etc.) about two damaged souls who first met while he was at Harvard and she was a suburban high-schooler. In 1996, the author learned of the death of Kim Janik, a man with whom she had an emotionally destructive, on-and-off relationship from 1969 until 1984. In prose at times too self-eviscerating, doubtless because it maintains an edge as sharp as a flake of obsidian all of the time, Alberts questions her role in Janik's disintegration. It won't be easy: "I knew Kim better than anyone did; I was incapable of knowing Kim." The product of an abysmal home life-her father a drunken bully and her mother ineffectual-teenaged Laurie was slapped around by bouts of depression, anxiety, and anorexia; focus and empathy weren't her strong points. Kim seemed a port in the storm: independent, smart, and soon enough lusty and loving. To get some control over her life, Alberts needed to exercise and enjoy the power of being wanted, and not just by Janik, which fueled a rage of jealousy. They separated and re-coupled too many times to count. "He offered unconditional love. . . . I offered him an opportunity to be Mr. Rescue." His role suffocated, hers was never enough. Ultimately, Alberts was too befuddled by the tumult of her brain chemistry and the times, while Janik surrendered to unchecked love and unbearable loss. Though it is never affected, there are moments when the author's narrative approaches a too-raw indulgence, as when she intones, "It is possible that his will be the last name on my lips at the moment of my death." (One wonders what her daughter and husband will think of that.) You have the feeling Alberts will pay anunexpected price for this book. An American life from the 1970s, with all its crucifying reverb.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780803210653
Publisher:
University of Nebraska Press
Publication date:
03/01/2004
Series:
American Lives Series
Pages:
175
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.74(h) x 0.82(d)

Meet the Author

Laurie Alberts, author of the novels The Price of Land in Shelby, Lost Daughters, and Tempting Fate, teaches fiction and creative nonfiction at Vermont College’s MFA in Writing Program.

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