Her childhood was marked by parental substance violence, male brutality, distant mother, confusion, and social restrictions. She was helpless as she could not get rid of those parental behaviors because of her young age. Despite of these alarming conditions, she was given the present of literacy by her mother. Karr was unable to get the love and affection which is normally expected from the mothers. This was due to her mother's unforeseen and violent relationships with her husband. Karr's mother was believed to be "nervous" by the people and she was sent to an institution for proper treatment. The "nervousness" mentioned by Karr is not just a euphemism for mental illness but was inherited. As Karr declares, "when Mother could be brought to talk about her own childhood, she told stories about how peculiar her mother's habits had been" (44). Even though her mother was not physically offensive, Karr was always cautious of her emotional explosion as it gave the impression as if "some kind of serious fury must have been roiling around inside her. Sometimes . . . she would stand in the kitchen with her fists all white-knuckled and scream up at the light fixture that she wasn't whipping us, because she knew if she got started, she'd kill us" (71). The mother of Karr used to drink a lot. During those days, Karr used to count her drinks, empty bottles of liquor down the sink, observe the disgraceful fights of her parents and get nervous. She describes the drinking habit of her mother as, "Mother had always been a binge drunker, not touching a thimbleful for weeks or months when she'd gotten her gullet full. But once she took that first drink, she was off" (126-127). Karr's reading is full of the situations which she couldn't get rid of, due to negligence and loneliness. She describes the habits and attitudes of her mother in a way that grabs the attentions of the reader and compels him to observe the situation. Karr describes that the activity, other than drinking, which her mother does was lying in bed for days, doing nothing but reading books. Karr called these times as "Her Empress Days [. . .] for she spent them doing nothing more than ministering to herself in small ways" (230). This habit of her mother gave more ways to the incidents which made her develop the feeling of being neglected or being alone and even permitted many undesirable and shocking incidents like the opportunity granted to wicked babysitters for sexual offenses.
Karr was a child who observed many shocking and dreadful things in a young age. Her mother's behavior was enough to threaten her. Her mother, Charlie, used to talk about suicide and death especially when drunk or mournful. Charlie used to say that for some people it is sensible to commit suicide. These comments were enough to horrify Karr and reduce her morale (230). Karr experienced and observed that things in her house are not fine, when not less than three times; her mother was intending to commit suicide regardless of the presence of other family members in the car.
Karr's mother was educated, was an artist and resided and had work in New York City. Karr's mother was a marvelous reader and storyteller. Karr declares about this aspect that "The bedtime stories she told were [about] Athens in the age of Socrates, [. . .] the Paris of the twenties; Vienna when a sick and sweaty Mozart was