Alexandra Fuller

In Fuller’s dramatic new memoir, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Penguin, $25.95), we learn all about her mother. Nicola Fuller, now 67 years old, was born on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, but, like her daughter, grew up in and forever planted her heart and soul into Africa. Fuller relates her mother’s childhood in Kenya, where her best friend was a chimpanzee, her mode of transportation was a sulky, devious donkey, and where she was by turns beaten by her drunken ayah (nanny) and the nuns at her convent school. "They smacked me and punished me and banished me," Nicola tells Alexandra, "but it just made me more difficult and defiant." Tellingly, the flinty Nicola’s favorite hobby becomes the dangerous sport of steeplechase racing, but, Fuller writes, "In her view, the immediate peril of a situation is always weighed against the glamorous obituary that might be written if the thing killed you." Today based in Wyoming, Fuller writes that her family has never been the huggy, affectionate type. Yet her two memoirs (this and 2001's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight) can be seen as her expressions of enduring love for them--her crazy mother, her older sister Vanessa, and her father Tim. Despite all Nicola's turbulence, the two remain happily married on a fish and banana farm in Zambia. While Dogs so strongly evoked Fuller's '70s childhood in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia, Cocktail Hour delves beyond those years in a proud homage to her parents and the land they love. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Tue., Sept. 13, 7 p.m., 2011

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