The Terrible

A Storyteller's Memoir
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“Devastating and lyrical.” —The New York Times

“Suspenseful and affecting.” —The New Yorker

From the celebrated poet behind bone, a lyrical memoir—part prose, part verse—about coming-of-age, uncovering the cruelty and beauty of the wider world, and redemption through self-discovery and the bonds of family

“You may not run away from the thing that you are
because it comes and comes and comes as sure as you breathe.”
 
This is the story of Yrsa Daley-Ward, and all the things that happened—“even the terrible things. And God, there were terrible things.” It’s about her childhood in the northwest of England with her beautiful, careworn mother Marcia; the man formerly known as Dad (half fun, half frightening); and her little brother Roo, who sees things written in the stars.
 
It’s also about the surreal magic of adolescence, about growing up and discovering the power and fear of sexuality, about pitch-gray days of pills and powder and connection. It’s about damage and pain, but also joy. Told with raw intensity and shocking honesty, The Terrible is a memoir of going under, losing yourself, and finding your voice.

Praise

“Devastating and lyrical.”
The New York Times

“Though her plainspokenness resembles Rupi Kaur’s accessibility, Daley-Ward has a specific story to tell, one that is suspenseful and affecting in its details.”
The New Yorker

“A coming-of-age memoir . . . of particular lyricism and bracing honesty.”
The New York Times Book Review

Elle’s Best Books to Read This Summer

“Profoundly beautiful . . . [Daley-Ward] interweaves verse and prose to great effect, offering less a simple retelling of her life, and more of an impression of it, a sense of how it must feel to live it. Much of what Daley-Ward recounts of her childhood is devastating . . . and she has a unique ability to tell these parts of her life with an unflinching intensity, the kind that sears itself onto your skin; and yet this is not a story without hope or love.”
Nylon (Great Books To Read This Summer)

“I tore through Yrsa Daley-Ward’s poetic memoir, The Terrible, in a matter of hours. . . . An impressive take on the memoir that prioritizes emotion over event.”
The Paris Review (Staff Picks)

“Absolutely stunning . . . a poetic look at someone's life.”
—Lauren Christensen, CBS This Morning

“[Yrsa Daley-Ward] makes the emotional brutality of dealing with family, adolescence, addiction, and sexuality accessible to her readers. . . . She continually incorporates gut-wrenching imagery in her work, and in both bone and The Terrible, she packages heightened emotion into just one or two lines.”
Ploughshares

“Unflinching . . . The Terrible’s raw yet lilting prose draws the reader in at once. Unpredictable shifts in form and structure—from prose to poetry and script—are refreshingly disorientating. This is both a defiant book and a defiantly inventive one.”
—The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Open up the first page of Yrsa Daley-Ward’s genre-defying memoir, and you’ll find yourself immediately transfixed by her rhythmic language. Ward unspools the story of her difficult coming-of-age as it felt, foregoing the pacing of a conventional memoir for something more poetic and visceral . . . in this book, her unique voice has room to grow roots on the page.”
—Refinery29 (Best Books Of June 2018)

“Devastating, in the very best way . . . generous, utterly human, and, eventually, hopeful.”
—Buzzfeed (Exciting New Books To Add To Your Summer Reading List)

“Daley-Ward splits herself wide open in her lyrical memoir.” 
—Bustle (New Books To Read This Week)

“Yrsa Daley-Ward is laying her pain bare and turning it into uplifting, unconventional poetry. . . . If readers thought she bared her soul through bone, her memoir The Terrible will be another lesson in how to fearlessly turn the pain of her past into uplifting prose.” 
—PopSugar

“Yrsa Daley-Ward has left all of herself on the page yet again. . . . An emotional look at growing up.”
—HelloGiggles

“Daley-Ward beautifully recounts her life thus far, equally reflecting on the wonderful and the terrible.”
—Medium (21 New Books You Should Read this Summer)

“[The Terrible is] powered by the strains of family separation, sexuality, and dreams.”
—The Millions (Must-Read Poetry)

“Beautiful and honest.”
—Joanna Goddard, A Cup of Jo

“A powerful, unconventionally structured memoir recounting harrowing coming-of-age ordeals . . . Daley-Ward resists classification in this profound mix of poetry and prose. . . . [She] has quite a ferociously moving story to tell.”
Kirkus (starred)

More praise for Yrsa Daley-Ward

“Yrsa’s work is like holding the truth in your hands. It sweats and breathes before you. A glorious living thing.”
—Florence Welch, of Florence + the Machine

“daley-ward effortlessly mines the bone. the diamond from the difficult. the things that are too bright and taboo. she lays her hands on the pulse of the thing. . . . an expert storyteller. of the rarest. and purest kind . . . daley-ward’s extraordinary talent. ability. to both see and write the veins of the true life. the true lives. is a gift. a breath.”
—nayyirah waheed, author of salt. and nejma

“[Daley-Ward] has a knack for getting directly to a story’s heat-point, and once there, to distill the emotions within it down to a line or two.”
Hanif Abdurraqib, The Atlantic

“Daley-Ward’s short poems cover subjects like depression, falling in and out of love, and sexuality, with a fierce staccato that, as the title suggests, cuts deep.”
Vogue 

“[A] stunning excavator of human heat and light.”
—HuffPost

Excerpt

Prologue

My little brother and I saw a unicorn in the garden in the late nineties. I’m telling you.

Neither one of us made it up; it was as real as anything else. Sometimes, when the world around us grew indistinct, when facts would blur into less certain truths and frightening things looked set to occur, the two of us could see clearly into the Fourth Dimension. So when Linford James was on a ladder at midnight, banging on the bedroom windows, shouting at Mum,

and later, when the color in his throat deepened and they were nose to nose, neither one of them spotted the unicorn. Adults went about their lives missing beauty all the time.

Little Roo was six. I was ten. The unicorn strode a couple of majestic laps of the garden, before vanishing completely into the rosebush. The Fourth Dimension was our only explanation for this. We weren’t dreaming.

That night, Mum called the police. The next evening, Linford was sleeping in her bed again, snoring the walls down in his frightening manner.

The unicorn wasn’t the only strange thing. Living in Chorley, up in the North, we were closer to the sky than most. What luck. Little Roo often saw things written in the stars. Signs, Facts and Other Things. I’m telling you.

He knew why adults said the things they said. And why they didn’t mean the things they said and even less what they did. Sometimes it wasn’t answers that he found, but entirely perfect questions. A genius, my little brother.