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QUITTER by Erica C. Barnett


A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery

by Erica C. Barnett

Pub Date: July 7th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-525-52232-4
Publisher: Viking

A Seattle-based political reporter recounts her tumultuous, nearly deadly dance with the bottle.

Writing a recovery memoir seems to be Step 13 for many professional writers of nonfiction who make it out the other side of addiction: Pete Hamill, Leslie Jamison, Mary Karr, David Carr, Caroline Knapp, and Sarah Hepola are just a few of the names that spring to mind. Perhaps because such authors have claimed truth-telling as their life’s work, and because addiction involves so many lies, putting an honest version of this story in print is a necessary part of reclaiming their identities as writers. The problem, of course, is that it’s usually the same story, which puts a heavy burden on prose style. Barnett rises to the challenge with a witty, self-deprecating, sometimes snide voice. (She describes her boyfriend’s friends as “well-adjusted in ways that made me nervous, with carefully curated lives filled with long-haired, gender fluid children, camping trips, and backyard chicken coops.”) The author engagingly chronicles her Southern roots and her school years in a Houston suburb, including some heavy teenage drinking, and then moves on to her first jobs, at the Texas Observer and the Austin Chronicle. In Austin, she found that “the grown-up world replicates high school in ways we don’t always recognize or acknowledge,” and her attempts to fit in with her new peer group led to her first blackout drinking. Barnett's journey involved an almost unbearable number of relapses, and readers may begin to feel the way her family and friends did: out of patience and sympathy. Nonetheless, this is the truth, and she tells it openly. Like many others, she utterly denied that AA was right for her—until it became the only way to save her life.

If you’re in the mood for a well-written, relatable, rock-bottom recovery memoir, this will hit the spot.