Kelly Carlin’s “A Carlin Home Companion” Review

It took me several months to finish this book due to the weight of the emotional revelations generated by Kelly’s reflection of her life. Radical changes have been made to my perception of fame and my own un-famous perspective. Kelly is impressive not because of her famous name, but because we are so alike. It’s very possible that Kelly and I are not-too-distant cousins, our Irish New Yorker lineage sharing the surname “Grady”, her stubborn branch refusing to give up the “O’” makes sense. Her memoirs are full of all too familiar struggles with codependency, raised by alcoholics, living in the shadow of her father, finding herself through understanding the mind… every step a loving tribute to life lessons learned the hard way.

Kelly’s honesty about past relationship problems and years spent prioritizing the needs of others over her own, made me feel less alone in similar experiences. Her master’s in Jungian Psychology shows through her deeply self-reflective omnipresence of the shadow. She tells us how she feels in each memory in a way that we sympathize with her state of mind at the time.

I very rarely weep while reading a book, but I straight-up ugly cried at several points in this memoir. The deaths of her parents, separated by eleven years (same length as her first marriage… hmm) instills the primal tension we all feel from birth. The loss of security, the relief of finality, and the desolate emptiness of grief are expressed in such a cathartic, therapeutic way. When I finished this book, I felt cleansed… relieved of pain and tension I didn’t realize I was carrying around.

Kelly was brave enough to expose her deepest, darkest thoughts and Carlin-enough to give the reader a few hard belly laughs every few paragraphs. Behavioral psychologists could study the evolution of Kelly’s writing out from under the all-consuming Carlin light and still never conclude a winner in nature vs. nurture. Did Kelly inherit the genius acerbic wit of her father or did she have to work that much harder to distinguish herself from everyone’s favorite Comedy Daddy? Maybe it was a little of both?

I enjoyed learning about Kelly’s life, thus gaining plenty of self-reflective perspectives. I wouldn’t say this memoir is an “easy read”, but Kelly is an easy person. She expresses herself with the friendly openness of a good friend and a compassionate human, bringing people in while she heals them. Her writing displays these qualities like brilliantly colored vintage photographs under glossy pages in an album. The warm, gooey nostalgia of memories encased in time.

Kelly makes me want to listen to everything she has to say because I know I’m going to learn something. Her writing somehow makes me feel both at home and homesick. I’m grateful to her for giving so much of herself so that this book can exist. It’s medicinal.

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