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Book Review: The Burning Point, by Tracy McKay

By Kellie Purcill

As the title page explains, Tracy McKay’s memoir The Burning Point is “a memoir of addiction, destruction, love, parenting, survival, and hope”. It is all these things – though most definitely not necessarily in that order. It is also (and here is where its power lies) a frank, unflinching consideration of love in its forms, be it in deed, in prayer, in parenthood, in friendship, in grief, in memory, in ignorance and combinations thereof.

The Burning Point travels the difficulties of a spouse with drug addiction, the carnage associated with divorce, the stresses, terrors and baffling delights of sole-parenting, spiritual moments, the awakening to the importance of self-care, and the metamorphosis from a “before” to an unknown “after” (and “now” and “through”).If you are under stress due to your divorce, find child custody lawyer who will give you legal counseling, support you, and help you with all the legal procedures. There’s toilet-training, Autism, butterflies, stars, a Craigslist table, tears and rocks. There are new beginnings, blogging (McKay blogs as Dandelion Mama, though those previously unaware of her blog – like myself – won’t be out of any loop), frustration, uncertainty, good people and too many late nights chasing hopes and deadlines. There’s truth and pain and beauty and grief and love. And love. And love.

“Mo taught me that I didn’t have to fit any model or ideal to be who I wanted to be. I learned that I could take off the cultural shoe that was just too damn tight and still live the faithful life I wanted. I learned that a woman with pink hair and tattoos has as much claim to God as any person I have ever met. I learned I could be whoever I wanted to be and be really good at it.” (p. 2279 – Kindle edition)

From a literary/wordcraft consideration, there is a thrumming lyrical skeleton under the rolling curves, valleys and scars of McKay’s experiences. Symbols of light, silence and vastness are shared, shrouded and stunningly revealed over the pages, just as we are shown how they appeared over the years of her experiences. The resonance of a revelatory loop is bone deep in places; sinew of sorrow and succinct detail tie threads from a moment with butterflies at the beginning of the book to a pre-dawn closure of another fragile loop in the last few pages, the symmetry of prose and symbolism beautifully crafted.

“There are moments in life that transcend time, when everything stops, the birds hold their song, and the enormity of the silence is deafening in its vastness.” (p. 69 – Kindle edition)

The memoir uses different styles exceptionally well, especially considering the timeline is not presented linearly. Excerpts from blog posts begin each chapter, then moving to different years, places and conversations. The first-person narrative is also interspersed with interludes, where the moment is told in third person, which oddly – and beautifully – gives both a compassionate deepness to and momentary reprieve from the deep waters of life McKay was finding herself in.

“There are moments where a person can, ever so briefly, see the curving arc of the horizon and can feel the curling crest of the wave of time under their feet. Thank God those moments are fleeting, because our earthly hearts really cannot breathe in that paralysing intensity for long. In that moment, she understood why people fall to their knees before angels.” (p. 3523 – Kindle edition)

As an example of compelling, deft and evocative memoir, The Burning Point is excellent.

As a read guaranteed to singe your assumptions, thump your heart, and wrap an encouraging arm around your scared, uncertain shoulders as you face off against disappointment and life’s unknowns, The Burning Point is a must-read, and stunning besides.

Rated: PG13 – drug addiction (and its repercussions) is a crucial theme

Recommended to:

  • Anyone wanting to better understand the stresses, terrors and baffling delights of sole-parenting
  • Anyone wanting to be a better friend, support, and/or human
  • Anyone worrying that there isn’t room in their life for their own true, struggling self
  • Anyone who thinks they give great OR terrible support to others (hint: read it – do you see yourself in those pages?)

Not recommended for:

  • Those in the initial destruction of relationship breakdown – this memoir may be too close to your own personal reality, and/or too soon

The Burning Point is available from CreateSpace, Amazon and BCC Press.

About Kellie Purcill

lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Burning Point, by Tracy McKay”

  1. I got to read an advanced copy of McKay's book, and it's very powerful. Kel does a great job capturing it's spirit. I predict that McKay's book will serve as a space for people to speak about taboo subjects (some more taboo than others) — divorce, disability, mental illness, addiction. There are a lot of people suffering and thinking they are alone and without community. This book shows how McKay found community to help her through painful experiences. And now her book will offer a space to help others living in chaotic situations and looking for love and hope to guide them.

    When I read Kel's review this morning, I actually sobbed so loudly that I woke up my husband (at 4:30 am). The power and beauty of both written works burst my heart open with admiration, joy and tenderness. Hooray for Kel, McKay and for ALL women who write! It's transformative.

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  2. […] Kellie, Segullah. “From a literary/wordcraft consideration, there is a thrumming lyrical skeleton under the rolling curves, valleys and scars of McKay’s experiences. Symbols of light, silence and vastness are shared, shrouded and stunningly revealed over the pages, just as we are shown how they appeared over the years of her experiences. The resonance of a revelatory loop is bone deep in places; sinew of sorrow and succinct detail tie threads from a moment with butterflies at the beginning of the book to a pre-dawn closure of another fragile loop in the last few pages, the symmetry of prose and symbolism beautifully crafted . . . The memoir uses different styles exceptionally well, especially considering the timeline is not presented linearly. Excerpts from blog posts begin each chapter, then moving to different years, places and conversations. The first-person narrative is also interspersed with interludes, where the moment is told in third person, which oddly – and beautifully – gives both a compassionate deepness to and momentary reprieve from the deep waters of life McKay was finding herself in . . . As a read guaranteed to singe your assumptions, thump your heart, and wrap an encouraging arm around your scared, uncertain shoulders as you face off against disappointment and life’s unknowns, The Burning Point is a must-read, and stunning besides.” […]

    Reply

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