1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $29.65

Buy for $29.65

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

This complex memoir shows what it was like growing up in the shadow of a literary father and a neglectful mother, getting thrown out of boarding school after being seduced by a teacher, and all of the later-life consequences that ensue.

In 1982, Erika Schickel was expelled from her East Coast prep school for sleeping with a teacher. She was that girl - rebellious, precocious, and macking for love. Seduced, caught, and then whisked away in the night to avoid scandal, Schickel’s provocative, searing, and darkly funny memoir, The Big Hurt, explores the question, How did that girl turn out?

Schickel came of age in the 1970s, the progeny of two writers: Richard Schickel, the prominent film critic for Time magazine, and Julia Whedon, a melancholy mid-list novelist. In the wake of her parents’ ugly divorce, Erika was packed off to a bohemian boarding school in the Berkshires.

The Big Hurt tells two coming-of-age stories: one of a lost girl in a predatory world, and the other of that girl grown up, who in reckoning with her past ends up recreating it with a notorious LA crime novelist, blowing up her marriage and casting herself into the second exile of her life.

The Big Hurt looks at a legacy of shame handed down through a maternal bloodline and the cost of epigenetic trauma. It shines a light on the haute culture of 1970s Manhattan that made girls grow up too fast. It looks at the long shadow cast by great, monstrously self-absorbed literary lives and the ways in which women pin themselves like beautiful butterflies to the spreading board of male ego.

©2021 Erika Schickel (P)2021 Hachette Books

Critic Reviews

"I picked up Erika Schickel's memoir and the world disappeared for the next two days. I was transported and consumed by Schickel's hypnotic unspooling of her troubled, sexed-up adolescence and the way the legacy of that time followed her like a black dog into midlife. Beautifully written, intensely relatable, and fueled by incendiary fury and love, The Big Hurt belongs on the shelf with a small number of memoirs that rearranged my world-view and maybe even a few of my cells. I loved this book." (Claire Dederer, author of Love and Trouble)

"One of the top five books I've ever read, don't remember what the other four were. Wowee." (Sandra Tsing Loh, author of The Madwoman in the Volvo)

"The Big Hurt fulfills the promise of which too many memoirs fall short: it takes the vagaries and vicissitudes of the human heart and elevates them to the level of social, even political, inquiry. Erika Schickel is not just an interrogator of her own psyche but an interpreter of the times - the current era as well as the decades that led us here." (Meghan Daum, author of The Problem with Everything)

What listeners say about The Big Hurt

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    78
  • 4 Stars
    20
  • 3 Stars
    10
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    3
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    78
  • 4 Stars
    13
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    2
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    68
  • 4 Stars
    18
  • 3 Stars
    8
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

It’s ok

The book grabs you at first and then she goes on and on and too far on. I found myself bored like no one cares this much. Had she not gone into so many different side stories, I would have enjoyed the book more. I found her performance to be fine until she mocked her dads nurse with an accent. It stood out to me, here’s this book where we are supposed to feel sad for the upper class white girl’s poor choices yet, she’s mocking the woman who cared for her dad felt necessary to her. I felt bad for the child and irritated by the selfish adult.

55 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A terrific storyteller and master of description

This book kept me engaged in all ways: the honesty, the descriptions, the use of language, the intricacies of family, the predatory behaviors and attitudes that get explained away, the smart & creative women that get sucked into (and put up) with ridiculous men, and more!

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

beautiful book!

Beautifully written story interweaving so many profound aspects of the author's life with toxic cultural norms. Funny, poignant and profound.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Unflinching

Schikel’s memoir of a 70s childhood and the unconscious behaviors learned at the feet of predatory adults (teachers) is a marvel. It’s funny, it’s honest, and it never lets humor get in the way of life’s lessons. It’s also a slice of 00-10s LA life told in the best way possible. Nice to hear someone who has learned from life’s lessons and isn’t necessarily lording over how evolved they are because of it.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Pathetic

A woeful and overstated recreation. The perennial sexual accounts seem inflated possibly for increased book sales. I wish I hadn’t read it.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Talking about my generation…

This woman’s brave telling of her painful and confounding relationships with her parents, authority figures, and predatory men is unfortunately a kind of time capsule for many women who came of age during this era. It is well written with wit and candor, keeps one interested in what’s ahead, and is perfectly narrated. On a personal note, it articulated for me areas of my own life that I had been unwilling to see for what they were and I am grateful for her opening a way for personal growth and understanding.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

This is a GEM of introspection! WOW!

Understanding our own lives is a challenge and few of us get it right. We either have done stupid things we can't take back, or we don't have a clue why we choose to do awful things, or, worse, we don't care why we do what we do.

It seems that only pain is able to bring us to some understanding by forcing us to poke at it afterwards to gain knowledge.

In her brilliant autobiography Erica Schickel has picked at her life with the care and focus, and intention to understand, like a coroner.

There is no grandstanding, there is no shyness, there is no fear of judgement by others. There is only the cutting back of layers of reality to explain to herself, and to us, what the hell happened in her life.

When I read biographies I judge them against two that I simply love for their honesty: U.S. Grant's memoirs and the diary of Samuel Pepys. Both men lived in times of great change and had major roles in them. Erica Schickel is a woman who has lived a modest life that happened during a rich, and mostly boring, era. She had no great role in it, nor does she describe any of the big historical events that happened in her time. She simply tells the story of her life. How can that compare to Grant's and Pepys's? HONESTY. Grant is one of the most remarkable men in history for having done great things but with zero ego. Pepys was a nasty, selfish, careful man, who wrote in a shorthand he was sure few could penetrate, so he wrote exactly what he was thinking, leaving behind as brilliant a portrait of his times, as of his mind. Erica Schickel has created an autobiography that is as rich, honest, and potent, as Grant's and Pepys's. At one point in her book she quotes her father saying that writers must tell stories for others to be able to understand their own lives better. Erica Schickel certainly does that.

I have been thinking about what she wrote and her understanding of her life since I finished the book yesterday. I listened to her reading her own words and she is a master not only of writing about her experiences, but also of narrating them. I felt I was in the presence of a friend describing her life as sincerely as she could to a sympathetic listener. And I was a very sympathetic listener because I felt she was giving me her life with open hands: this demands a respectful, thoughtful, listening.

As I listened to her own words, and extensive quotes from her father's letters to her, of her mother's cold behaviour, the indifference, selfishness, or plain criminality of lovers or sexual predators, in her life, I kept thinking of "theory of mind."

Ultimately, I believe, if we are able to imagine what others will be thinking about our actions, we'll be able to act properly. The people who hurt Erica Schickel all seem to me to be lacking in the ability to imagine the result of their actions in the minds of others. Of course, we don't expect sexual predators to care about the harm they cause in the minds of the people they hurt because they are selfish. But those closest to Erica Schickel seem unable to understand either how to see into Erica's mind, or how their actions will be understood by her. Her father writes with such clarity but his behaviour, from his marriage for influence, to his sexual behaviour, reveal a man so unaware of himself and others, that it's a wonder his daughter could soar above such indifference. Her mother, dying, has a sudden awareness of how she abandoned Erica when she was a struggling teen, and that is impressive, if way too late, even if Erica appreciates it.

As Thoreau wrote, we all live lives desperately trying to learn as we live. We are rarely completely successful. Some of us act selfishly and have relatively happy lives. Some of us are predators of others, often successful in our crimes by being unpunished. Still others act without malice, getting hurt, hurting others, and, finally, before it's too late, come to understand how complex life is, seeking justice, extending forgiveness, standing before others naked, unafraid, and, well, human, honestly human, in the end.

When I read history I often wonder what the life of a person was really like in their time. When I read the words of Grant and Pepys I come as close to that knowledge as words can bring us. When I listened to the words of Erica Schickel I felt the same intimacy, honesty, understanding.

I am sure digital libraries of the future will be lined with the lives of the great, the infamous, who made history. But somewhere in that ocean of digits there will be autobiographies like Erica Schickel's, which are just as potent and important, because they will tell us what it meant to be human at a particular moment in history.

As well, reading Schickel's words, others will feel their own sense of self. Having comprehended herself and others, Erica Schickel has lived, and taught, theory of mind. I come away from her autobiography with better understanding of the behaviour of others and of myself. Schickel is to be admired for that.

When the West is no more. When the tyrants against human happiness and honesty again rule the world, I am happy to know that Erica Schickel's book will be out there, like a middle finger extended, saying I matter! And that is the most powerful statement most of us ever get to make.

Wow, what a great autobiography.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Brutally honest

Brutally honest and relatable - brought me to tears- the narration was excellent - I didn’t know til the end that the author was the narrator.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Well done...

Beautifully written and narrated! I loved her play of words and descriptions and highly recommend it

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

A Lot Of Tough Insights

How do you fix pathology? How do you fix patterns that don't work? How do you take a troubled past and make it into something else? How do you move on? There are two horrible relationships, two horrible men, Henry and Sam. Henry is hard to believe, especially his letters. Henry is beyond the cringe. Sam is a study in Macho Degeneration. How does anyone have two guys like this in one life? I guess people get locked into patterns with other people. In some ways CJ is the most depressing. She doesn't get into it, but he's like a young teen made into a sex toy at a boarding school. Eventually they pay him off. This brings up two problems, for me. First off, you pay him and it's like 'Ok, you were a prostitute and now we've paid you'. Then they use the NDA, no disclosure, to seal the deal. Basically, this guy was abused, lost his sexuality, in some sense. There is no treatment, as such. It doesn't seem like the author ever broke the pattern. She had the 'normal' family deal, and left that. It's hard to find the elements of a message here. Toward the end it's like the author is saying "Dear reader, let's not dig too deep". It's like some kind of Drama Addiction. Everything is drama. The book is an expose of toxic men, an endless stream of broken male sexuality. There needs to be more of a conclusion, some path to change. It's a view of a world I don't want to live in.

.