Book Review: Skunk Stew by Helen Parramore #SkunkStew #1930s #Memoir #BookReview

Skunk Stew

by Helen Parramore


From Goodreads:

Sissy, the narrator of this haunting family drama, was eight when her father committed suicide. The family hid its shame and never talked about his death, especially to the children, who were more involved than anyone knew. As Sissy matured, she struggled with phobias, nightmares, and recurring dreams. Slowly she came to realize she had played a part in his death, but could not remember how.

Determined to discover the truth, she began an astonishing pursuit that lasted many years. Psychological counseling brought some pieces of memory to light, but she knew more was buried in inaccessible parts of her mind. She researched birth and death records. She questioned those still living who could tell her more about his death. Her mother, who knew more than anybody, was an inventive liar who shed blame like a dog shakes off water. Her mother’s sister and her mother’s oldest friend each had their own versions of the story. How much of what they say can Sissy believe? After years of piecing together fragments of this tormenting puzzle, she underwent therapy for trauma amnesia to pry out the last buried memories. A horrifying story emerged, but it brought an understanding long overdue.

My thoughts:

This review may contain spoilers.

Skunk Stew by Helen Parramore is a memoir of her childhood and beyond, beginning in the 1930s. Not only was her family struggling to survive during the Great Depression, but Helen had to deal with an absent mother and a father with mental issues.

This book was nothing like what I expected. I anticipated a story about a family trying to survive through the Great Depression (a learning experience for me not having been through it like my grandparents). Rather, it was more about Helen piecing together the past after the instability she endured growing up. Helen’s mother was an artist and would spend large amounts of time away, while her father who couldn’t find work was suicidal. Much of what went on during Helen’s childhood is difficult for her to remember—abuse, neglect, and trauma—which eventually leads to her visiting a therapist.

To say that I was uncomfortable reading this book is an understatement. It’s written very well, but honestly, I wanted to quit multiple times because the animosity and conflict between Helen and her mother is nearly unbearable. Parts of this story are insane, while Helen consistently attempts to pull something together that doesn’t seem to be there.

With that said, It was impossible for me to not to finish this book. Knowing whether Helen’s relationship with her mother would pan out was something I had to discover. There are so many secrets. Will she get the answers she’s looking for? Can she ever get over all the tragedy?

In the end, this is a powerful story that left me contemplating forgiveness. Can you forgive someone when they don’t even ask for it? Because after all, holding on to that pain and resentment only hurts us more.

If you plan to read this book be aware that it includes suicide, sexual abuse, racial issues, and abortion.



Find this book on Goodreads and Amazon:

This book is now on Scribd.

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0595476716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595476718

Thanks for reading my review! If you have thoughts or suggestions on other memoirs, please leave your comment below.

❤️ Mischenko

16 thoughts on “Book Review: Skunk Stew by Helen Parramore #SkunkStew #1930s #Memoir #BookReview

  1. Noriko🌷

    Wonderful review, Jenn! I kind of relate to the feeling that it’s so hard to read on but you just can’t stop. Seems like a tough read to bite into but I am glad you ended up liking it regardless.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is. Had I read the blurb before buying it I would’ve known what to expect. The cover and title just had me thinking this was more of a survival memoir. After reading it, skunk stew is just something the mother says she had to cook for the kids at one point when they had no food. The author feels that it’s all a lie because the mother is a storyteller.

      Basically, he commits suicide when she’s very young. The relationship was strained and he couldn’t find work. What these people went through is horrendous.

      Hope I didn’t just spoil that for you if you plan to read it. It is heavy for sure though. Thanks, Teri.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the title that pulled me in, believe it or not. I thought for sure it was going to be more about how they survived the Depression. According to the mom, she had to cook a skunk at one point to feed them, but it’s only touched on. Thank you, Cathy. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. She had such a rough upbringing. It was hard to read at times, but I think it would be harder to put the book down and not know what happened. I appreciate your thoughts. 🙂


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