I Will Be Complete: A Memoir
Novelist Glen David Gold begins his new memoir with a warning: “My mother assures me none of this happened.” But I’d trust Gold before trusting her, said Ned Lannamann in the Portland, Ore., Mercury. Judging by the details he provides, his upbringing was “singularly awful.” Fortunately, “reading I Will Be Complete is anything but.” The book is “riveting in the way of stories of children raised in the wild,” said Jim Ruland in the Los Angeles Times. Gold was 11 when his mother moved to 1970s San Francisco and dropped him in the middle of a bohemian demimonde; a year later, she left him there alone when she headed for the East Coast. Fear of abandonment became, for Gold, a running theme in early life, and his account of his experience is “an audacious, boundary-shattering work that will be talked about for a very long time.”
It’s also a third too long, said William Giraldi in The Washington Post. Instead of honing his story, Gold “seems to have omitted no recollection of his first 30-odd years.” But the first 200 pages are wonderful. A precocious child and natural smart aleck, Gold was treated like just another of the eccentrics at his mother’s San Francisco parties, and he wound up leaning on the charming, drug-abusing charlatan she initially coupled up with after divorcing Gold’s father. He’s just as good on his next stop—Los Angeles in the 1980s. And as long as the story revolves around Gold’s relationship with his self-sabotaging mother, his memoir is a banquet of heartbreak wised up by humor.
We can’t be 100 percent sure he isn’t telling tall tales, said Helen Brown in The Spectator (U.K.). Gold’s “sensational” 2001 debut, Carter Beats the Devil, displayed his talent for mixing truth with invention, and when he’s detailing childhood experiences here, “you doubt whether he can have remembered it all so clearly.” Maybe he does exaggerate, but “I bought the deep truth of Gold’s book.” It’s a “dazzlingly insightful account of how the smart children of unstable parents attempt to hold themselves and their parents together as they grow.”