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SWEET FIRE by Pat MacEnulty


by Pat MacEnulty

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 2003
ISBN: 1-85242-455-9
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Precisely plotting the slippery slope of a heroin addict’s existence, MacEnulty’s somewhat autobiographical debut paints a bleak picture but still manages to include a ray of hope.

The sweet ’70s are young, and 18-year-old Trish is a newlywed, but that doesn’t stop the Florida judge from sentencing her junkie husband Charlie to ten years for stealing stereos. She grieves by immediately seeking out a fix, and before she knows it she’s hooked herself. There follows a long sojourn in the slough of despond as she and her friends-in-need work small scams to score, head to California in search of better highs, move back to Florida, shoot up and nod off every chance they get—until death gets some of them. First to go is Carrie, one of Charlie’s ex-girlfriends, who kills herself after Trish steals money from her. Then there’s Big Steve, Trish’s California lover, who ODs a week after getting out of jail. Various rehab efforts initiated by her brother and mother, a concert violinist, fail, and Trish takes off for Miami, living with another wasted lover while selling herself to a Cuban drug dealer and even going to college—until she visits her sugar daddy one night and finds him with his throat slit. Finally, she gets involved in a hard-core burglary scheme targeting pharmacies, which works well until the police catch on and she finds herself in a courtroom looking at a judge for sentencing. She gets only three years, but while in the pen she also gets clean and learns the true story of her unknown father, after which something clicks, so that in spite of a slight (though near-fatal) relapse, Charlie’s release, and the death of the wasted lover—an early AIDS victim—Trish still has a shot at putting her past behind her.

A frank, moving depiction of a nightmarish slice of American life.