Reviewed by Jodi Horsley

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl, a memoir, was not an easy read by any means. The narrative flows from point in time to point in time with regularity between past and present. The book tells the story of an alcoholic, through her treatment and multiple relapses. Kelle Groom shares how far into the abyss she fell and how difficult it was to climb out.

I Wore the Ocean begins with Kelle giving birth at the age of 19 to her son Tommy. She gets to hold her son two times before she hands him over to her aunt and uncle who adopt him. Since Kelle discovered alcohol at 15, she has been in no shape to take care of herself, let alone a baby. At nine months, Tommy is diagnosed with Leukemia and dies when he is only 14 months old. Most of Groom’s narrative involves her son and her desire to reconnect with this missing part of her self which directs her actions throughout her life.

Kelle goes into intimate detail about her downward out of control spiral and her insatiable desire to know her son. The kind of child he was, his likes, dislikes and even his death. After losing her son a second time (to death), Kelle continues her struggles with alcohol and self-destruction – showing up late to school drunk or skipping it completely and blacking out at bars. Luckily, Kelle does seek sobriety. She drops her drinking buddies and finds employment where she makes new supporting friends. She completes her bachelors and even continues on to graduate school where she majors in creative writing. However, there is still an ever present sadness – which is one of the reasons she wrote this book, in hopes that it will bring her some solace.

I Wore the Ocean was a difficult book to read, although it was also a great book. It is beautifully written and it is easy to see the poet coming through. Groom’s words are honest and raw, and her amazing will to survive to tell her story is inspiring. It is inspiring not only to others who are facing their own descent into a personal hell, but for those who know loved ones who are also in the tight grip of substance abuse. There is some skipping around in the timeline which can make it a little confusing at times, but it certainly does not take away from the intensity of the story.

I felt some satisfaction in knowing that Groom does comes to terms with what happened to her – overcoming alcoholism, surviving devastating things like rape, the loss of her son and the sadness that enveloped her life.

Rating: 5/5

Jodi lives in the western suburbs of Illinois with her husband, her elementary school daughter, and preschool boy/girl twins. She is an avid reader and loves losing herself in a good book. She has a Master’s in Information Technology and has been a WAHM mom for 4 years now.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Free Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.