A best-selling memoirist tells the story of how he survived—and came to terms with—the traumatic near-deaths of his youngest brother and former fiancee.
Martinez’s (The Boy Kings of Texas, 2012) youngest brother, Derek, was born to parents whose marriage was “crippled by rot.” Spoiled with attention as a child, Derek hero-worshipped his hard-living, hard-drinking older brother. But he also suffered deeply when his parents divorced and the mother he adored shunted him off to live with one relative after another. So when Martinez, who went to live in Seattle, learned that his brother was in a coma as a result of an alcohol-related blackout and fall, he felt profound guilt. His misery was compounded by the fact he chose not to return to Texas due to a feud with another brother. But Martinez could not escape his own conscience and found himself “collecting little brothers” in his neighborhood. Then he met Stephanie, a troubled bisexual woman whose “anguish…brokenness…and misfit qualit[ies]” mirrored his own. The pair hurried into a dysfunctional engagement. At the same time, Martinez befriended an older woman named Sarah, with whom he fell deeply in love. The author eventually broke off his relationship with Stephanie, but not long afterward, she drove her car off a cliff. Like Derek, she suffered brain injury, went into a coma and survived; unlike him, she had the shocked and bewildered Martinez by her side until she recovered. At Sarah’s insistence, Martinez began to write because “it was going to be [his] only way out” and the way he could finally align the “drunken compass” of his broken heart. This tragicomic memoir is not just about the complications of family, but also about the power of narrative to heal and make whole.
A passionate, occasionally convoluted account of personal redemption.