Everything / nothing / someone A memoir

Alice Carrière

Book - 2023

Alice Carrière tells the story of her unconventional upbringing in Greenwich Village as the daughter of a remote mother, the renowned artist Jennifer Bartlett, and a charismatic father, European actor Mathieu Carrière. From an early age, Alice is forced to navigate her mother's recovered memories of ritualized sexual abuse, which she turns into art, and her father's confusing attentions. Her days are a mixture of privilege, neglect, loneliness, and danger-a child living in an adult&#...039;s world, with little-to-no enforcement of boundaries or supervision. When she enters adolescence, Alice begins to lose her grasp on herself, as a dissociative disorder erases her identity and overzealous doctors medicate her further away from herself. She inhabits various roles: as a patient in expensive psychiatric hospitals, a denizen of the downtown New York music scene, the inǧnue in destructive encounters with older men-ricocheting from experience to experience until a medication-induced psychosis brings these personas crashing down. Eventually, she finds purpose in caring for her mother as she descends into dementia, in a love affair with a recovering addict who steadies her, in confronting her father whose words and actions splintered her, and in finding her voice as a writer. With gallows humor and brutal honesty, Everything/Nothing/Someone explores what it means for our body and mind to belong to us wholly, irrevocably, and on our own terms. In pulsing, energetic prose that is both precise and probing, Alice manages to untangle the stories told to her by her parents, the American psychiatric complex, and her own broken mind to craft a unique and mesmerizing narrative of emergence and, finally, cure.

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New York : Spiegel and Grau 2023.
First edition
Physical Description
276 pages ; 24 cm
Main Author
Alice Carrière (author)
Review by Booklist Review

When she was little, Carrière thought she had to be creatively exceptional to win the love of her emotionally withholding mother, the artist Jennifer Bartlett. Her father, the actor Mathieu Carrière, showered her with affection but also treated her like a companion, sharing explicit details of his sex life. In her pulsing memoir, Carrière carefully considers how the circumstances of her childhood--Bartlett's micro-designed house, where everything down to the drinking glasses was custom-made, her father's inappropriate innuendo, and her nanny's attentive devotion--shaped her precociousness, her fragile mental health and overmedication, and her survival. She tells of touring celebrities around the pool at her mother's parties and bragging to her father about her bags of prescription uppers and downers. Ultimately, after years at in-patient mental health clinics, where the doctors pathologized her, she meets a kind and emotionally generous musician who helps her recalibrate. This isn't only about Carrière's life. It's also about how people make art and build family, how philosophy--her father was a protégé of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze--intersects with lived experience, and how people try and fail to connect. Shortly before Bartlett died in 2021, Carrière learned how deeply her mother cared for her. Her first book is, indeed, creatively exceptional.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Carrière's urgent, visceral debut traces the roots of her struggles with dissociative disorder to the poor boundaries of her childhood. The only child of internationally acclaimed American artist Jennifer Bartlett and German actor Mathieu Carrière, Alice was rocked by her parents' contentious divorce proceedings, which lasted for six years while she was young. Her emotionally unavailable mother left Alice's care to paid helpers; later, her father's transgressive sexual anarchism encouraged Alice's sexual behavior with his friends. A reciprocal, loving relationship with a teenage boyfriend introduced the author to normal family life, but she couldn't comprehend healthy relationships free of trauma. Eventually, Carrière lost her grip on her physical self and succumbed to her dissociative disorder: "I was traumatized not by an external event that my mind was trying to escape, but by the experience of my mind escaping itself," she writes. After suffering medication-induced psychosis while seeking reprieve from the condition and enduring fruitless psychiatric holds, Alice finds purpose in a budding relationship with a fellow recovering addict, who helps anchor her. Carrière's surgically precise prose compresses her broken-glass experiences into hard diamond truths about family trauma and the mental health industry. This brutal, illuminating account reads like a contemporary Girl, Interrupted. Agent: Kimberly Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (Aug.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Kirkus Book Review

A memoir of mental illness from the daughter of actor Mathieu Carrière and artist Jennifer Bartlett. Alice Carrière's childhood was underscored by the wealth, power, and notoriety of her parents along with the idiosyncrasies and aloofness that these markers often confer. In her literary debut, she establishes the push and pull of her mother, father, and beloved Nanny, "the British governess paid to raise me," a motherly figure "who could be fired and disappear at any moment." Each struggled with their own backgrounds of trauma, from indoctrination in perverse cultural movements to up-close encounters with suicide. The inheritance of these scars--and the attendant distance and inappropriateness--contributed to the author's mental illness, which included self-harm, first inflicted at age 7. "With a tiny, shiny blade I learned I could unlock a doorway that led to a place that was entirely my own, even if I could only stay there for a moment within those seconds of pain," she recalls. Throughout this visceral text, the author propels readers forward with the gut-wrenching descriptions of her struggles and how they were exacerbated by the lack of a recognizable support system. Meanwhile, she artfully establishes an equally disturbing undercurrent: the sucker punch of egregious malpractice to which she was subjected by a series of doctors who overprescribed a number of powerful drugs and mismanaged therapy sessions. It can be difficult to ignore the advantages of Carrière's privilege--e.g., lengthy stays at expensive inpatient facilities, the ability to drop in and out of elite universities--but her artistic prowess and determination to unearth and interpret the true narrative arc of her life and healing shine through. "Things only became real when they were turned into language," she writes, and "that language was often the only thing left when that reality fell apart." This book is the exemplification of that ideal, rendering real and poignant her experience--both material and interior--in stunning prose. A spellbinding memoir. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.