Dark at the Roots: A Memoir
By Sarah Thyre
Reviewed by Jessie
Dark at the Roots: A Memoir, by Sarah Thyre, is a humorous memoir of what it was like growing up in a lower-middle-class Catholic family in the 1970s. Thyre is best known for her work on Strangers with Candy and Upright Citizens Brigade, and readers will find her comedic works translates well in her amusing yet somewhat dark anecdotes.
Like most people, Thyre spent her childhood trying to fit in, even if it meant buying one precious Lacoste sweater, removing the alligator, and sewing it onto various pieces of clothing as she grew up. As the title implies, however, Sarah’s life was not all bright and shiny.
Thyre’s mother was a hippie Catholic who tried to steer her children in the right direction. She didn’t seem to have the ability to enforce her rules strictly because she loved her children and wanted to make them happy, even if it meant stealing money from her husband so that her daughter could attend an expensive summer camp in North Carolina.
Thyre’s father was an abusive man who, despite taking his children to Disneyland a few times, did not contribute to their well-being financially or emotionally, especially after he divorced Thyre’s mother. He was disappointedly indifferent to the needs of her his children, complaining that all they wanted from him was his money.
Thyre did everything she could to try to win over her classmates – running for Student Council President, doing impersonations of teachers or celebrities – but no matter what she did, Thyre was humbled time after time when her so-called friends saw through her façade and abandoned her because she wasn’t really cool enough. She sat helplessly out of the loop while all the other girls around her got their periods. Acting like royalty, Thyre’s peers complained of cramps, and flaunted their Super-Plus tampons and budding chests, while Thyre lamented her concave chest and her yet-to-arrive period.
Thyre tells her story with a wry sense of humor that is unabashedly honest, even when revealing an unfortunate sudden need to go “poddy” in her garage during a game of Sardines (a version of Hide and Seek) or her explorations of pornography and sex as a child. Still, the book lacks coherence at times, quickly jumping to the next humorous anecdote when it touches upon something too serious like her parents’ divorce hearing and Thyre’s inability to really “tear into” her father like she promised her family.
There are countless moments in the book that we can all relate to (whether we would like to admit it or not) – trying desperately to fit in with classmates, struggling with parents, or learning about the opposite sex. It was an enjoyable read that made me feel a little less alone knowing that there was someone else out there who wore mock-Tretorns in an attempt to fit in, even for a moment.