The son of Chicken Soup for the Soul creator Jack Canfield debuts with a memoir of a peripatetic West Coast childhood and subsequent struggle with drug addiction, told in a series of humorous vignettes.
By the time he was four, Canfield had suffered his father’s desertion (“from everything I’d heard he was the lying, cheating, conniving, manipulative, inhuman son of a bitch who had left my mom when I was one and she was six months pregnant”) and his mother spending their two years in Mexico walking “from village to village wearing a Guatemalan dress and combat boots,” crusading against the Nestlé Corporation with her two young sons in tow. After moving to New Mexico, the author’s mother left them in the care of two kindly strangers named Carol and Ed, who ran an alternative school. It was there that Canfield began drinking, at the age of seven. When Carol and Ed could no longer cope, the boys were shuttled off to live in an apartment with their grandmother. Things spiraled downward from there: foster care, a fundamentalist Christian school, time with a Sufi clown and a stint in the circus, an emerging heroin addiction, a visit to an anarchist’s collective in Detroit, a nearly fatal drug-related accident and failed efforts at rehab. The memoir is divided into short chapters with wry titles, and further divided into a series of loosely connected paragraphs that shift in time and place. The chronology is occasionally difficult to follow, and though engaging, the vignettes don’t always cohere into a smooth narrative. The author’s deadpan irony is periodically brilliant, but the overall effect of the relentless humor is a kind of distancing of character that results in a somewhat disaffected memoir.
An unconventional childhood described through the lens of the author’s battle with substance abuse, likely to be of the most interest to those recovering from an addiction.