Life coach and inspirational speaker Maddigan tells Laura Gilbert’s story—an unlikely triumph over abuse, addiction and despair.
Gilbert’s childhood was so bleak that it’s tempting to compare her to one of Charles Dickens’ abused, impoverished urchins; born to an alcoholic, pill-popping mother (father unknown), young Laura—nicknamed Squeaks by one of her mother’s boyfriends—endured her tender years in squalid hotel rooms in the slums of 1960s Vancouver. It was a world of rats and filth, brawls and bacchanals. Her mother existed in a state of stupefaction or rage, leaving Laura unfed, unwashed and unschooled. Often abandoned for days on end, Laura stole to eat and her only companions were street pigeons and a stuffed panda. Occasional rescues by social services—plus the good will of neighbors, a church lady, Laura’s loving grandmother and a girlfriend or two—provided temporary relief and much-needed meals, but never a permanent home, ultimately leaving Laura at her mother’s mercy once more. She soon learned to fight back, at one point stabbing her mother in self-defense. Neglect and mistreatment planted their seeds, and booze, drugs and men eventually seduced Laura as they had her mother, with predictable results. At 18, Laura shared her mother’s helplessness—“[W]e both felt like our lives were a prison sentence.” As Laura becomes a mother, then a wife, her alcoholism grows acute and her self-destructive nature erupts. The cycle of drinking, regret, shame and drinking again will be familiar to anyone who has battled addictions or witnessed their destructive path through families. Maddigan writes convincingly in Laura’s voice, though at times the language feels too casual and naïve for the more sordid episodes. And while Laura’s plight is moving, the litany of her misfortunes may exhaust some readers’ sympathies. A careful proofreading would have helped as well. Fortunately the sun finally shines in this dark book that culminates in a series of personal testaments—and a reprise of earlier characters—revealing how an unwanted, troubled girl learned to cherish and heal herself.
A journey from squalor to wholeness, occasionally tiring but ultimately uplifting.