A critically acclaimed poet’s account of her anguished descent into alcoholism and self-destruction.
When Groom (Five Kingdoms, 2009, etc.) gave birth to her one and only child at 19, she was already in the fierce clutches of alcohol dependency. Through a series of impressionistic, loosely chronological recollections, the author describes the early experimentations with drinking that evolved into full-blown addiction. Shy and socially awkward, the author—who took her first drink at 14 and had the first of many blackouts a year later—saw alcohol as liquid empowerment. It was, she recalls, a “potion that chang[ed] me, [made] me unafraid.” The greater her need for alcohol became, the more out of control her life became. Groom was increasingly drawn into questionable friendships, unhealthy relationships and life-threatening situations—extreme inebriation led her to be gang-raped and almost murdered. Her pregnancy was the eye in the increasingly violent storm of her life. But soon after she gave her son to her aunt and uncle, she became overwhelmed by a profound guilt that exacerbated a propensity toward self-mutilation. After one particularly gruesome cutting episode, Groom went to a rehabilitation center. As she recovered from alcoholism, she began to struggle with the trauma of losing her son, first to adoption, then to infantile leukemia. Wracked with self-hatred, she cycled in and out of school and moved from one low-paying job to another. Eventually, she gained the courage to embark on a two-decades-long journey to learn about her son and understand why he became ill. The language of this brooding and obsessive memoir is exquisitely compressed, yet beneath the taut imagery and diction are palpable, powerful surges of emotions.
A visceral, darkly lyrical narrative that reads with the immediacy and rawness of an open wound.