The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet

"Glints with poetry and wisdom." —Los Angeles Review of Books
The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet
University of Nebraska Press, 2018
Clear-sighted, darkly comic, and tender, The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet is about a daughter’s struggle to face the Medusa of generational trauma without turning to stone. Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs of the 1970s and 1980s in a family warped by mental illness, addiction, and violence, Kim Adrian spent her childhood ducking for cover from an alcoholic father prone to terrifying acts of rage and trudging through a fog of confusion with her mother, a suicidal incest survivor hooked on prescription drugs. Family memories were buried—even as they were formed—and truth was obscured by lies and fantasies.

In The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet Adrian tries to make peace with this troubled past by cataloguing memories, anecdotes, and bits of family lore in the form of a glossary. But within this strategic reckoning of the past, the unruly present carves an unpredictable path as Adrian’s aging mother plunges into ever-deeper realms of drug-fueled paranoia. Ultimately, the glossary’s imposed order serves less to organize emotional chaos than to expose difficult but necessary truths, such as the fact that some problems simply can’t be solved, and that loving someone doesn’t necessarily mean saving them.

Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist
Poets & Writers New & Noteworthy Read

“This ambitious memoir glints with poetry and wisdom. . . . Aching, endless, unresolved, and extremely compelling. . . . [Adrian's] glossary, in making a place for everything, has provided a way through this harrowing tale of the toll of generational trauma . . . with generosity, honesty, and insight.”
The Los Angeles Review of Books

“Details, with precision, sensitivity, and lyricism, the specialized language of a childhood and adulthood with an alcoholic father and a mother with a catalog of emotional problems. The [glossary] form imposes a semblance of order, is an attempt at understanding, and blazes with harrowing moments. . . . An intimate and searching accumulation of the moments, tender and brutal, that heap together and create a life.”
The Boston Globe

“Deceptively simple fragments add up to more than the sum of their parts. . . . Astonishing and inventive. [Adrian's] glossary is strangely gripping, with a momentum pulling the reader in and through. The result is whimsical, even darkly funny at times, brimming with compassion, terribly sad and deeply loving. Memoir readers should not miss this singular offering.”
Shelf Awareness

“Adrian’s unique approach to narrating a story that resists order is to transform it into glossary entries. . . . Some of the entries are long and provide pages of narrative, others are brief like a punch.”
Signature Reads

“Adrian uses a highly unconventional form to mirror her confusion over how to connect her wide-ranging, frequently painful memories of what she and her sister endured . . . creating deep connections between the reader and her childhood self.”

The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet is an unconventional, wildly disturbing, and hugely innovative book. It is an intimate portrait of family dysfunction, addiction, and mental illness that grabs the reader immediately. The story is told in razor-sharp vignettes. . . crisp and wide-eyed.”
The Florida Review

“A remarkable rendering of a mother-daughter relationship . . . sprinkled with evocative memories, at turns hilarious, repulsive, poetic, and devastating. The form of the glossary works neatly as a conduit for cataloguing the way memory works in our consciousness, popping up unexpectedly and without a need for chronology. . . The text is challenging because of the subject matter [but] Adrian weaves pathos and humor throughout. ”
Propeller Books