Bereaved parents explore the drug addiction that led to their son’s death and plumb the many layers of grief in this debut memoir.
Johnathan Leif Trang was only 16 years old when his parents, Jude DiMeglio Trang and John M. Trang, made the stunning discovery that their bright, charming son was using black tar heroin, known on the street as BT. Ten years later, after many confrontations, discussions, and interventions, JL, as he was known to friends and family, was dead of an overdose only days after his release from his latest rehab program. Beginning with a foreword by his sister, Johanna Trang Schumacher, and interspersed with letters to JL written by both parents in the months after his death, the book attempts to understand his life and character and the nature of the addiction that led to his fatal overdose. Agonized by their loss and the frustration of their hopes for their beloved son’s future, the authors were determined that JL’s life not be defined by his drug problem or his lonely death. They found support in embracing their Christian faith and reading views on death by writers likes Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and Joan Didion as they navigated their own family dynamics, “complicated grief,” and efforts to remember, uncover, and honor JL’s deeper self. In the process, they exposed layers of pain, from the loss of their own posterity to a pervasive anger directed at everyone from drug cartel leaders to, as Jude writes, “myself for failing you so, at God for allowing it to happen, at you for being gone.” The raw immediacy of the narrative will sweep readers into a parent’s worst nightmare, in which sadness is compounded by disbelief that the crisis of drug abuse could step out of the headlines and into the heart of a middle-class family. Although parts of the memoir delve into the political aspects of addiction, including the “astronomical” cost of treatment and the history of the international drug trade, it is most memorable on a personal level, as in the stories of JL’s friends and fellow struggling users that end the work on a hopeful note.
A vivid, emotional diary of the shattering effects of drug abuse and a child’s death on a family.