Kirkus Reviews QR Code
AMERICA ANONYMOUS by Benoit Denizet-Lewis Kirkus Star


Eight Addicts in Search of a Life

by Benoit Denizet-Lewis

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7432-7782-2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Compassionate case studies of addicts in varying phases of dependency, from New York Times Magazine contributing writer Denizet-Lewis.

In his candid, approachable introduction, the author unexpectedly levels the literary playing field by divulging on his own sex addiction. “It inevitably colors the way I conceptualize this topic,” he writes, noting that his worse relapse ever occurred during the writing of this book. All eight of the people he followed over the course of two years are gripping subjects, and the author describes their plights in seasoned, dexterous prose. Denizet-Lewis visited Bobby, a heroin addict in his mid-30s living in drug-addled South Boston whose hopeless struggle was exacerbated by his younger brother’s addiction. The author also got to know a spry West Palm Beach octogenarian who was a regular at Alcoholics Anonymous; a “cartoonishly large” bisexual bodybuilder/escort hooked on steroids; a compulsively overeating Jewish housewife and mother; a dejected young man in his 20s easily inebriated by pornography and the vice trade; a former junkie turned addiction counselor; and a Harlem grandmother who lost everything to her crack habit. Follow-up chapters produce empathetic, in-depth character studies of each. Almost all of them benefited from a potent regimen of psychoanalysis, the intensive 12-step recovery program and group support meetings. (Only a shoplifting mom rarely made time for specific group meetings.) The lifelong commitment and dedication needed to remain sober proved overwhelming for many, and each had suffered devastating relapses from which they struggled to recover. Denizet-Lewis prognosticates that several of his focus group will eventually achieve lasting sobriety through perseverance, while others will simply continue cycling through relapse and recovery.

An arresting, personal glimpse into the merciless world of drug and behavioral addiction.