Feldman, Joshua Max. Start Without Me. William Morrow, 2017. ISBN 978-0062668721 288 pp. $
I apparently read this a few years ago, and read half of it and have no recollection of it. Black sheep and recovering alcoholic runs away from family holiday and connects with another lost soul: a married flight attendant pregnant with her high school boyfriend’s child. Drama, redemption and lots of coffee ensue.
Rao, Cheeni. In Hanuman’s Hands. Harper, 2009. ISBN 978-0060736620 pp. $25.99
After his overdose, Cheeni’s father threatens to disown him if he doesn’t get clean, so he gets himself into a kind of halfway house with a motley crue of the marginalized. The young narrator thinks drugs give him a connection to the divine in a way his ancestors achieved through more spiritual means, and believes there is a curse on his family because they deserted the wrathful goddess Kali for the promise of the US. While suffering from DTs, he attempts to put the chaos of his life into some semblance of order.
The memoir swings like a pendulum from the author’s two-faced childhood in America (getting drunk, burning down houses, and attempting suicide while passing himself off as an earnest student on the college track) to his family history and pastoral life in the India. While the East meets West storytelling is presented in vivid, (sometimes lurid) sensory detail, it wanders all over the place timewise and I couldn’t get past the 50 page mark; “vivid as an acid trip” as proclaimed on the back cover didn’t work in this book’s favor, for me.
Frey, James. A Million Little Pieces. Anchor, 2005. ISBN 978-0307276902 pp. $18
I crawled inside the narrator’s skin and I could feel the bugs crawling over it. Stomach twisted and churned as he alternated eating and throwing up, eating and throwing up. Pulse raced; would he walk out? or stick it out? Would the girl be his downfall or salvation? I could not put this book down–had to get my fix to the end.
Billed as a memoir, and later discovered to be completely fabricated, A Million Little Pieces follows the story of an addict hitting rock bottom, going through rehab, confronting his demons, and starting on a path to resolve his issues.
This was a high adrenaline roller coaster ride through a subculture I don’t need to ever experience firsthand, thanks to this horrific and gripping account. I had to keep checking to see if the protagonist made it to the end.
Burgess, Melvin. Smack. Harper Teen, 1999. ISBN 978-0380732234 293 pp. $
Smack is a gritty novel about the agony and ecstasy of heroin addiction. Two British teens run away because they feel cramped by their parents and live a life on the streets. Becoming squatters, they must resort to a life of crime to support their new habit. A tragic and realistic story, told in many different voices. Pair with The White Horse by Cynthia D. Grant and Beauty Queen by Linda Glovach by for a great book discussion.