Nonlinear reflections on a life blighted by alcoholism.
Gutsy British Sunday Times writer Gill’s (To America with Love, 2013) brutally honest memoir charts “the year between the end of the marriage and the end of drinking,” though the narrative’s timeline is as unreliable as the author became when under the influence. During several uninspired, short-lived stints in art school, Gill was negatively influenced by an imprudent Irish vagabond and “the momentum of his hedonism,” which led to a drinking life accented with drugs and odious behavior. His encroaching addiction assumed priority over life events such as an ill-fated first marriage, though in their initial courtship, his wife-to-be enabled and romanced him with promises to “always make sure there’s beer in the fridge.” By the time he reached the age of 30, cursed with debilitating episodes of delirium tremens, blackouts, and a host of chronic physical maladies, Gill found himself in a treatment center with a physician diagnosing imminent death if he didn’t cease drinking permanently. The author is at his best when coherently describing his family life growing up, cloaking dyslexia (and his adult guilt at passing it on to three of his four children), his first acid trip, and the art of cooking elaborate, solitary dinners while “dead drunk.” The remaining pieces of his life are haphazardly scattered throughout the book. Though this jagged timeline diverts attention from Gill’s downward spiral, the anecdotes of what he does remember and his introspection on what it’s like to be both a full-blown addict and a recovering one more than make up for the memoir’s murky construction. The author’s concluding thoughts on hitting rock bottom when “there’s nothing left to say and no one left who’s listening,” his success in critical journalism, and impressions on becoming a “reluctant Christian” create an odd yet strangely fitting coda to a bumpy life.
An intensive, uneven, relentlessly blunt take on addiction and recovery.