The interrelated pieces that make up The Blurry Years hum with such insight and understanding that the whole feels strikingly personal. Eleanor Kriseman's Callie ("Cal") ages from a child of six to a young adult of 18 under precarious circumstances in late 1970s and early 1980s coastal Florida. Moving between an assortment of impermanent locations (hotels, cars, various boyfriends' homes) with her alcoholic, peripatetic mother, Cal seeks stability in whatever small nooks and crannies she can find it.
The Blurry Years is skillfully unsettling in its unfiltered look at a girl simmering in ongoing crises over which she has no control. Cal's mother, Jeanie, not only fails to shelter her daughter from danger, but in most instances is the source of it. Although Cal is the narrator and focus of the stories, Kriseman's portrayal of Jeanie's alcoholic fall-downs and get-back-ups has dazzling authenticity, all the more striking as viewed through a girl's eyes.
Peace and comfort come in incremental measures for Cal, who wants only "plans, promises, something concrete": things her mother is not equipped to provide. Kriseman packs a perfect punch in a small package, painting 12 years of Cal's life to full-frame in fewer than 200 pages. The picture is bleak, perhaps a reflection of Kriseman's experience as a social worker, but the writing is unerringly captivating. Cal herself describes it perfectly as she curls up on the couch to read Bridge to Terabithia: "It was obvious something awful was going to happen, but I couldn't stop reading." --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review