THE ROAD BACK by Joseph Kessel


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In 1958, in Paris, Kessel's interest in Alcoholics Anonymous, which he knew really nothing about, was alerted and as a newspaperman in search of a ""belle histoire"" he traced it to its source here. While Americans, familiar with the many variants of this experience, may not respond with quite the same feeling of revelation, it is hard not to share his admiration for this organization and the members it has helped. Kessel visited many functioning A.A. groups, from the ""trash can for bodies and souls""- the Bowery, to the more fashionable Rhinelander group, even in Sing Sing and Bellevue. He documents its origins, in Bill W., a seemingly hopeless drunk, who shared his story and his idea with a surgeon, also alcoholic, in Akron, Ohio. He reviews the tenets of A.A. and the communal, collective work they do which makes possible the reclamation of a life where other techniques have failed. Kessel's report is an enthusiastic tribute, but he does write about alcoholism as if it were a particularly American phenomenon. This seems surprising, in view of France's increasing awareness of her problem.

Publisher: Knopf