Fury: A Memoir

Fury: A Memoir

4.5 2
by Koren Zailckas

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The author of the iconic New York Times bestseller Smashed undertakes a quest to confront her own anger.

In the years following the publication of her landmark memoir, Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood, Koren Zailckas stays sober and relegates

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Read Koren Zailckas's blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.

The author of the iconic New York Times bestseller Smashed undertakes a quest to confront her own anger.

In the years following the publication of her landmark memoir, Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood, Koren Zailckas stays sober and relegates binge drinking to her past. But a psychological legacy of repression lingers-her sobriety is a loose surface layer atop a hard- packed, unacknowledged rage that wreaks havoc on Koren emotionally and professionally. When a failed relationship leads Koren back to her childhood home, she sinks into emotional crisis-writer's block, depression, anxiety. Only when she begins to apply her research on a book about anger to the turmoil of her own life does she learn what denial has cost her. The result is a blisteringly honest chronicle of the consequences of anger displaced and the balm of anger discovered. Readers who recognized themselves or someone they love in the pages of Smashed will identify with Koren's life-altering exploration and the necessity of exposing anger's origins in order to flourish in love and life as an adult. Combining sophisticated sociological research with a dramatic and deeply personal story that grapples boldly with identity and family, Fury is a dazzling work by a young writer at the height of her powers that is certain to touch a cultural nerve.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Zailckas, who tackled her teenage binge drinking in Smashed, delivers an intriguing and often heartbreaking follow-up on uncovering--and embracing--her anger. The project began as a scholarly examination on the way Americans approach anger, but morphed, in the four years Zailckas spent writing it, into something deeply personal: an examination of why she always denied her own feelings of rage. Everything comes to a head after she returns to her parents' Massachusetts home after following her then-boyfriend, Eamon, to England, where the relationship quickly soured. Zailckas returns home and sinks into a deep depression, which only heightens her writer's block, and sends her on a short-lived homeopathy kick. She begins therapy and starts to chip away at years' worth of emotional denial and pent-up feelings that came from living with a family where "anger was off-limits because it tap into everybody's fear of inadequacy and imperfection." Zailckas is at her most blisteringly honest when she's trying to wrap her head around her complex and often-strained relationship with her mother. But despite the liberal doses of academic quotes, Zailckas steps out from behind the shield of her intellect and confronts her emotions head-on, even when it hurts. (Sept. 7)
Library Journal - BookSmack!
After the success of her earlier memoir, Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood, Zailckas struggles with maintaining equilibrium in her relationships becuase she is fearful of releasing the full force of her feelings. Fury chronicles her efforts to uncover the sources of her suppressed ire and discover ways to express it before it kills again. Zailckas relies heavily on reconstructed conversations with sympathetic therapists and apparently unsympathetic family members as well as extensive references to psychological literature in her journey toward the healthy (for her!) expression of her anger.What I'm Telling My Friends: Be careful around Zailckas, or you'll wind up in her next book, and you won't like it. Seriously, this reminded me how much power the holder of the pen (keyboard?) wields. Therese Purcell Nielsen, "Memoir Short Takes," Booksmack! 10/7/10
Jessica Ferri

Though its title suggests volcanic rage, Koren Zalickas's second memoir, Fury, is really about the struggle to access her anger after a lifetime of repression. The epigraph quotes Emily Dickinson: "Anger as soon as fed is dead -- Tis starving makes it fat." When her British indie-rocker boyfriend dumps her after weeks of bickering, she flees their home in England and arrives safely (but not so soundly) at her parents' home. Initially, she sets out to write a book about different techniques for anger management. A list of remedies attempted include, in no particular order: Homeopathy, Chakras, Psychoanalysis, garden-variety therapy, life-coaching, chain-smoking, banging a toy drum, beating a pillow, group therapy, meditation, Reiki, and Yoga. (Alcohol is sensibly absent; Zalickas's first memoir, Smashed, chronicled her binge drinking). But in researching strong emotions, Zalickas realizes she's unable to articulate her own. Her therapist, Alice, questions her about her family's relationship to anger, and the floodgates open.

Zalickas's exhaustive play-by-play of her daily activities makes Fury read more like a diary than a finessed memoir, leaving little room to make a specific statement on anger and women's relationship to it. Still, albeit somewhat clumsily, the book finds its purpose more than halfway through when Zalickas realizes she used her boyfriend as a scapegoat for her anger at her parents, particularly her mother. The difficulty of their relationship is evident. In response to a pregnant woman who comes to her group therapy to insure she won't contaminate her fetus with negative thoughts, Zalickas writes, "It struck me as a nice thought . . . I mean, whose mother was that considerate?" This is perhaps meant to be funny, but it speaks volumes to the tension in her relationship with her own mother, who once told her, "If you get angry like that out there in the real world outside of this house, people will lock you away." So Zalickas avoids expressing angry feelings, holding her fury inside until it explodes in spurts -- leading her family to believe she has an "anger problem." In one particularly painful passage, Zalickas suffers a miscarriage at home and finds little support -- even some disdain -- from her mother and sister. While justifiably upset, her response is nowhere near out-of-control, considering this is only one glaring example of the many hurts and upsets that shaped her. Given her reaction, a more appropriate title for this memoir might be "Repressed."

While the book could end with a group hug, thankfully it doesn't. Zalickas acknowledges the storm of emotion and misunderstanding that sits beneath any domestic surface, and this is refreshing. There is no forgiveness or clearing of the air, despite her attempts at reconciliation. The ultimate revelation, ushered in by the birth of her daughter, is about tolerance. Zalickas vows that her child "will be free of the legacy of anger, repression, narcissism, self-sabotage, and abandonment" that she felt. "I want to have the presence of mind to see her not as a version of my grandmother, my mother, or myself, but rather for the person she inherently is and will be." Though this may be easier said than done, Zalickas has ended her journey with wisdom that feels real -- and more importantly, earned.

--Jessica Ferri

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
1.00(w) x 5.15(h) x 8.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Fury 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
naj55 More than 1 year ago
Oh, my! If you are not in tears by the time you have finished Karen Zailckas' new memoir, Fury, you did not emerge from a family that had you convinced you were crazy when every fiber in your being said you were the sane one. I pre-ordered this book based on the title, the cover and the synopsis. But none of those had me prepared for what I got. This book reads like a mystery. I couldn't put it down. Why? Because Zailckas had somehow found out about my life and was telling my story. Page after page I wondered when Ms Zailckas would give up trying to connect to her family. When would she give up on love. Her story is inspiring. If you wonder why you are angry and why a meaningful relationship eludes you, please read this book. You just may find an answer.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
Fury is not intended to be a book on addiction recovery but I have read few books that offer a more vivid picture of the recovery process. Those who are learning to live without addiction speak of being “clean and sober.”  For those who do not have to work daily to keep from returning to an active addiction, such language is foreign, if one is “clean” one is also “sober.”  The reality is one is “clean” when they are not using the substance to which they are addicted, one is “sober” when they are doing “what it takes” to stay clean.  In Ms. Zailckas’ first memoir, she recounts her life of binge drinking and “getting clean,” in this continuation (but one need not read the first to appreciate the second) of that account the author gives a glimpse into what it takes to be “sober.”   Koren Zailckas meets a man through friends and began a relationship online, not meeting in person for months.  Within a year of that meeting she had relocated to Brighton, UK, to live with this person.  By the end of the first month there, after a heated argument, she was back to the U.S., living with her parents, irate at the young man, whom she nick named “The Lark.”  Because of her anger, she decided to write her next book about anger; she had no idea that research would turn into a memoir.   The early part of the book is a bit tedious – the pace is slow and the writing sterile.  It is not until she begins the process of looking at how she “played into” the events that lead to such a devastating fight that the writing begins to live, much like the author begins to “live.”  She decides to enter psychotherapy and find out, first hand, about anger.  Initially, she approaches therapy “as if it were a night class,” reading about anger, theories of approaches to resolving anger, family therapists who help people deal with anger and its consequences.  As Alice, her very talented therapist, pushes her to look beyond the surface, the author begins to “recover” in ways that are, by turns (and all at once), amazing, painful, redeeming, shattering and clarifying.  The year she spends in this process is an example of what can happen when an individual chooses to do the difficult work of making the needed changes when they realize their lives are “dysfunctional.” The moment she “gives” The Lark is name back is a powerful revelation of a person “getting it” and is a significant turning point in the author’s life.  In a book with the title “Fury,” one can expect harsh language and violence.  The former is present, but not to the extent one could expect and the latter is present only in the form of emotional violence, of which there is plenty.  Ms. Zailckas reports to be a Buddhist but there is a point in the story where she allows herself to believe there is a personal God, that turns out to be a painful moment.  At the end of the book, the author is still furious, but that anger is no longer seen as an intruder, it has become a sometime guest who must be acknowledged. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is: learning to deal with intense emotion(s), addressing how they were parented, early in addiction recovery and/or interested to see how self-examination can lead to meaningful, healthy change.