“The Recovering, Intoxication and its Aftermath,” Leslie Jamison’s impeccably researched, 520-page book leaves no stone unturned as it opens our eyes to the devastating effects of alcohol and drug abuse.
In the beginning of this comprehensive volume, Jamison states she didn’t want her book to be about her “addictive spiral . . . (was) wary of the tedious architecture and tawdry self-congratulation of a redemption story.” Instead she wanted to create a book “that might work like a meeting — that would place (her) story alongside stories of others.” And so she has.
Jamison intersperses her personal struggle with addiction, with anecdotes about others’ obsession with the bottle, from family members, to writers like Stephen King, Ernest Hemmingway, to Bill W., who laid the foundation for Alcoholics Anonymous with A. A.’s Big Book, which serves to guide alcoholics through recovery in meetings where people gather to share their “experience, strength and hope.”
As anyone who associates with, or loves an alcoholic or drug abuser knows, the disease doesn’t only affect the user — a point Jamison illustrates as her addiction escalates and she hides her drinking and blackouts from her longtime boyfriend and others.
A common denominator with many recovering alcoholics is the knowledge that they drink differently. Jamison had her first drink at 13, and ‘’’just loved it . . . the crackle of champagne, its hot pine needles down (her) throat.”
This episode and others led to additional self-destructive behaviors, anorexia, cutting herself and dabbling in drugs, but it was alcohol that enslaved and brought Jamison to her knees, and later to recovering, not recovery, because those in AA believe they’re continually recovering one day at a time as they work the steps to stay sober.
“The Recovering” should be required reading — simultaneously informative and chilling, it details the devastation of alcoholism as Jamison bares all, her story the tale of many who sit humbly in circles in 12-Step rooms. Readers will wish the best for this brave soul.
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“The Fighter” is a whopping good story with a sleazy southern setting and a rough but sympathetic character, Jack Boucher, a pill popping, gambler and boozer pushed into his last fight, knowing it will cost him his life.
Author Michael Farris Smith pulls out all the stops in a thriller that gets a strangle hold on you and won’t let go, moving from start to finish at breakneck speed.
Hooked on pills to lessen torturous headaches from repeated concussions, Boucher, a legend in his day, is at the end of the line. Years ago, as a foster child victimized by playground bullies, Boucher learned to depend on his quick fists to survive. It was a choice that his loving foster mom Maryann tried to steer him away from, but failed; at 19, Boucher took to the boxing circuit.
Though different in many ways, this mother and son are both outcasts, Maryann’s ostracism coming from a lifelong secret Boucher discovers when she lies dying in a nursing home from Alzheimer’s.
Boucher is devoted to her, but he’s made some bad decisions gambling and drinking, and is beholden to Big Mama Sweet, who rules the Delta with an iron fist and branding iron. She’s the last person anyone wants to tangle with, burning a dollar sign on the neck of those who owe her money.
After Boucher hits a hot streak on the tables and wins $12,000 to pay Big Mama off, he’s accosted by one of her “brutes,” ending in a car crash. The envelope full of cash disappears, taken by someone who happens by, providing a twist in a clever turn of events. “The Fighter” is a slim book, a cliff-hanger easily digested in one sitting, with a heck of a climax.
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Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad (1935-1967) was a woman ahead of her time who suffered because of her dedication to the arts. Farrokhzad was Iran’s most famous, and controversial, female poet and later a filmmaker, yet she received few accolades for her work because she wrote during a time when only male poets were deemed worthy of praise.
In “Song of a Captive Bird,” Iranian author Jasmin Darznik imagines the poet’s life, basing her historical fiction narrative on extensive research of the tortured and talented Forugh, whose father and husband had her committed to a madhouse, where she endured shock treatments, to curb what they believed to be her wanton ways. Her captivity in this grim institution followed Forugh’s tumultuous affair, a relationship that spawned “Sin,” a poem that caused nationwide criticism.
Labeled a “troublemaker,” Forugh was raised in Tehran, the daughter of a woman dedicated to her hardnosed husband, Colonel Farrokhzad. He served Reza Shah and remained loyal to the shah until his death. The Colonel, a title he demanded his children call him, blamed his wife for Forugh’s independence.
Forugh didn’t fit into the mold of the times and found release in writing poetry, and as a teenager in the company of Parviz, a man who became her husband. Their union was shame-based because of a situation that was entirely out of Forugh’s hands. After two years, the marriage ended in divorce and Forugh’s estrangement from her son.
In unadorned but eloquent writing, Darznik relates Forugh’s struggles in a country that gradually grows in violence, demonstrations and danger erupting, forcing Darznik and her family to flee Iran in the mid-1970s. “Song of a Captive Bird,” is sure to delight book club members who’ll be touched by this engaging story of an admirable and courageous poet.