A relentless, cautionary chronicle of smoking dependency.
In this affecting, journal-inspired memoir of cyclical compulsion, Pennsylvania author Beard describes a torturous lifelong waltz with the cold clutches of nicotine addiction. It started early, after her older sister, Tracy, was caught by her mother with a pack of cigarettes in her coat pocket. To appear “cool like everyone else,” Beard took up smoking at age 12, unaware that the habit would haunt her well into adulthood, beginning with collapsing lungs in her early 20s and progressing to agonizing episodes of hypochondria, depression and mood swings. The author’s fiance supported her many attempts to quit, offering nicotine gum and kind words, while her co-workers at a chocolate manufacturing plant were smug and cruel, waving their cigarette packs in the air as she passed. Beard writes with heartfelt honesty about continually wrestling with medicinal patches, doctors and her own cravings, which, at times, consumed her. In this slim memoir, she compresses a great amount of angst-ridden urges, fortitude and determination; using smoking-related historical and medical factoids, she dutifully reminds readers of nicotine’s immensely addictive and physically deteriorative qualities. Her riveting daily struggle to quit evolves through episodes of guilt, shame, success and failure in an internally combustive standoff between “knowing that I needed to quit and an addiction to the pernicious drug that kept me enslaved.” Beard’s all-too-common story will resonate with readers willing and interested in quitting cigarettes, and her fresh, unfettered perspective offers both hope and solidarity. Her cleareyed precision and stark honesty mine the heart and soul of her vulnerability and the natures of human desire, routine and self-control. She firmly resolves to remain an “endurance quitter” who recognizes that the struggle calls for committed, daily baby steps and nearly superhuman willpower.
Smart and strikingly veracious.