Before I start reviewing this book, there is something you should know about me. I am a child of addiction. I have seen and experienced firsthand the brutal hell addiction causes to family and loved ones. Actually, addiction makes hell feel like one of those lazy Sunday afternoons where you order a pizza before noon and don’t wear pants for a solid 24. Addiction is not a joke and is by far one of the worst diseases that can overtake a human being. It doesn’t just affect the addicted, it intertwines itself into the hearts and lives of every single person around them. It shatters anything left of your heart, it makes you scream to the sky out of sheer anger, it scares the living shit out of you, it closes you off as a person entirely. I’ve dealt with it throughout my entire life, and the vicious cycle of addiction is something I wouldn’t wish upon my strongest of enemies.
I started this novel at 11 pm last night and just finished it about 15 minutes ago. Yep, you heard me. 21 hours. I flew through this book like there was a gun to my cat’s head and if I didn’t finish it before 24 hours were up… well, you get the idea. I loved this book for so many different reasons. First and foremost, the writing structure of this novel fascinated me. It focuses on five excruciatingly different characters who all share one major thing in common: addiction. Each chapter bounces around between the five of them and their stories. You have Jason, the son who was berated by his father and believed he was exactly what his father referred to him as; a pussy, a faggot, basically the biggest piece of shit to ever walk the earth. Thus, he turned to alcohol to numb the pain of feeling like he was never good enough. There’s Kelly, who had survived her 16 years of life relying on nothing but vodka-orange juice, cocaine, and one-night stands in order to feel like she was worth something to anyone. Eva, the girl who filled the void of her mother’s death with a combination of lethal prescription drugs. There’s Christopher, who grew up home-schooled in a Christian household and has formed an intense meth addiction to cover up for his homosexuality and the lack of acceptance from his mother (Christopher’s story hit me hard, fuck you if you’re a parent and don’t accept your child’s sexual preference). And last but not least, Olivia. Raised in a white collar family who never accepted anything less than perfect, she developed a strong addiction to diet pills and in turn, anorexia. Spoken in first person, Amy Reed let each character explain their story little by little, chapter by chapter. The end result left me sobbing (in a good way, a way only amazing writers can accomplish).
I want to share a passage with you which was written from Kelly’s perspective. It’s a long one, but read it. It shines a light onto the nasty disease of addiction that nothing more than personal experience could ever accomplish.
*A little background information, leading up to this passage: the character’s were at an AA meeting, which is a spiritually-based program. This was Kelly’s takeaway from the meeting*
“Okay, God. Here’s one for you. Here’s something I could not do for myself. I could not make my sisters healthy. I could not be good enough or pray hard enough or keep everyone smiling long enough to get the sickness out. I could not be good enough to make everything normal. How’s that? What are you going to do now? Are you going to cure them? Are you going to make my parents love me as much as they love my sisters?
Or maybe you can do even better. Maybe you can make time go backward, to before the drugs, before the sickness, before my sisters were even born, when I didn’t have to share my parents’ love with children who are so much more worthy. There’s my mom, just like a movie, holding a warm tray of cookies just out of the oven. There I am, when I still had an appetite. There we are in a bright kitchen on a Sunday morning. The sound of birds chirping. The sun reflecting off shiny clean pots and pans. The feeling that everything will be okay forever.
And here comes Dad in his bathrobe. He kisses us both on the cheek. Maybe we have a dog, a golden retriever who’s sniffing at the table, drunk on the smell of cookies. We all laugh. We say ‘Oh, Goldie’ in unison, and Dad says ‘That silly dog.’
And then what? After-school activities. Ballet. Soccer. Help with homework. Maybe I join the Girl Scouts. Maybe my hair is still brown instead of this blond dye job. Maybe I’m on the debate team or in drama club and I go to movies with my friends instead of snorting coke and having sex with guys so old it’s illegal. Maybe I don’t have to get drunk every day, because I tutor kids with learning disabilities and maybe I’m school treasurer and maybe my life is going somewhere and maybe everywhere I look I see rainbows.
And then what? Definitely not this. Definitely not seventeen and in rehab, definitely not angry and scared and convinced that nothing will ever change. Not with that feeling in my stomach and my chest like I can’t breathe, that feeling like a giant fist squeezing. And now they’re telling me I have to get rid of the only thing that loosens its grip. That’s the irony, isn’t it? That’s what these old men are trying to tell me with their sad stories and coffee breath. The thing that helped has become the thing that imprisons us. We keep feeding it and it keeps wanting more. This is a disease that tries to convince you that you don’t have it. This is a disease where the medicine that gives relief is the same thing that kills you.”
Reading that passage floored me. I mean absolutely stopped me in my tracks. You may not know me, but believe me when I say it takes a lot to shut me the fuck up. And this left me speechless. Amy Reed, you beautiful woman, you perfectly captured what it means to be an addict and I applaud you. The desperation, the sheer wishing that things could be normal and that the demon that is addiction had never wrapped it’s cold, dead hands into your life. I’m speechless.
Guys, just read it. Even if you are lucky enough to not be affected by addiction, reading it will help you understand the millions of people that are.
XOXO – G ♥
You’re not alone ♥