LAST CHANCE AT NORMAL by Louise Godbold

LAST CHANCE AT NORMAL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A debut book recounts one woman’s struggle to come to terms with her husband’s heroin use.

Godbold uses her own extraordinary experiences for the premise of her memoir, which looks back on her unexpected, challenging marriage to Francisco “Pancho” Franco. Unexpected because one rarely sees a Cambridge-educated woman from an upper-middle-class family in Britain settling down in impoverished Los Angeles neighborhoods; challenging because Franco’s addiction to heroin is all-consuming and almost completely unchecked. Godbold begins her book after her marriage has already neared collapse; readers meet her pregnant and alone, calling an ambulance to get to the hospital when her water breaks. From here, the account proceeds in reverse as Godbold moves toward the beginning of her relationship with Franco. It’s a bold narrative choice on the author’s part that rests on the suspense so effectively conjured in the volume’s opening pages: how did this unlikely couple come to be? Propelled by this question, readers will likely continue onward, gradually losing momentum as the story becomes bogged down by Franco’s repeated relapses and the asides from Godbold’s job in Los Angeles. Readers eventually find out that the author was a social worker when she met Franco; this experience enables her to pepper the narrative with short, anecdotal accounts of various people she worked with in that capacity. Those interested in the hardships faced by urban residents of Los Angeles, especially members of the Latino community, may find these brief passages gripping. More generally, this volume should appeal to anyone who regularly reads addiction memoirs, especially those enthralled by the family surrounding and supporting an addict rather than the user. Godbold writes with a natural sensitivity about the self-destructive behavior of a loved one; she conjures real tension whenever she heads home to see if Franco has run out for a fix or when she eats dinner with her extended family after her husband has driven all the way from Los Angeles to Phoenix, strung out, to see her. This is an imperfectly constructed memoir that rings with authenticity.

A worthy addiction memoir with a particular focus on marriage and family. 

Pub Date: June 8th, 2014
Page count: 215pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
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