SMOKE RINGS RISING by Jennifer L. Hunt

SMOKE RINGS RISING

Triumph of a Drug-Endangered Daughter
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A debut author’s memoir unpacks her emotional baggage from having been raised in a family of drug users and abusers.

Born in 1971, Hunt grew up in and around California’s Central Valley, during which she gained plenty of experience with marijuana: “I was the (self-appointed) joint roller of my family. I couldn’t yet tie my shoes, but I could roll you a doobie and/or fix you up a ‘cocktail’ cigarette.” As a child, she was permitted to smoke with her parents and siblings, she says, but she did so only intermittently. In fifth grade, Hunt made a decision: She would no longer use drugs, even though marijuana remained a big part of her family members’ lives. Her two older sisters, she says, were taking amphetamine pills with their mother in their early teens. One began using methamphetamine at 14, and eventually began manufacturing it. The author, the youngest of her mother’s four children, didn’t learn that she had a different father than her siblings until she was 14. Years later, she contacted him and discovered that she had two more half sisters, with whom she established relationships. The number of people in this narrative can be dizzying, and include half siblings, stepfathers, stepsiblings, stepgrandparents, nieces, and family friends; several of the latter turn out to be drug dealers. As a result, readers are likely to have difficulty keeping them all straight. Still, the trajectory of Hunt’s life, despite a teenage pregnancy and an abusive, dangerous relationship with the father of her two sons, remained remarkably on track. Despite stumbles and backslides, she turned to therapy, not drugs, to help her work toward a successful career as a court stenographer and provide a safe home for her children. In well-crafted, often poignant, prose, she offers a jaw-dropping, insider’s view of substance abuse throughout three generations. This alternately disturbing and uplifting memoir suffers from some repetition and some confusing chronology, but ultimately, it’s a testament to Hunt’s resilience in the face of unfavorable odds.  Black-and-white family photos add satisfying context to her account of her later years.

An inspiring tale that’s told with honesty and love.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-692-04051-5
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: Smoke Rings Media LLC
Program: Kirkus Indie
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