Gill, a former “disciple” of alcohol and “fanatical atheist,” gives readers a guided tour through his visions of hell in this harrowing true survivor story.
An exceedingly dark ride, as befitting its subject, this densely written “confession” immerses readers in Gill’s “psychic turbulence” and descent into alcohol and drug abuse. He was born to a European mother and Pakistani father and had “a red-haired veteran of the Vietnam War for a stepfather.” A vividly rendered dream (about demons that “clung to the tower’s walls like enraged and monstrous bats”), which opens the book, is prelude to the escalating debauchery of Gill’s early life. He started drinking at 16; by 22, he stopped “trying to maintain appearances...trying to function normally...trying to participate in the human race.” He writes, “I simply gave up—on life, on myself, on everything.” He painstakingly recounts a bender fueled by cocaine and crystal meth, and a vision of Jesus Christ keeping the demons at bay does little to curb his self-destructive impulses. Gill does eventually find love and emerges on “the other side of a living death.” The author takes opportunities at various points to make amends with some that he wronged, including a woman to whom he drunkenly exposed himself. “Whoever you are,” he writes, “I am deeply sorry. I was a very lost, very disturbed kid.” Considering the extent of his substance abuse, one can’t help but wonder how he could recount his life in such detail, an issue he addresses directly: “the inevitability of subjective distortion forces me to admit that this narrative is bound to contain errors.” Some may balk at the marathon paragraphs, florid passages, italic typeface, and copious Bible citations. Devout readers, however, may be more willing to forgive a saved Gill’s trespasses both in life and on the page.
An ultimately affirming, albeit overwrought, story of recovery.