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An unblinking portrait of how drugs destroy lives.

A saddening account of the effects of opioid addiction on a household “just like yours perhaps.”

The “house on stilts” of the title is a backyard treehouse in which Hunter, child of Becker (Looking for Betty MacDonald: The Egg, the Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and I, 2016, etc.) and her physician husband, once played; later, it became a refuge for the drug-addicted young man, forbidden entry into the home. That descent into addiction is now so common as to be nearly universal, but it takes those who must bear the collateral damage of chemical dependency often unawares. One minute, as she notes, they’re reading Harry Potter and baking pies, and the next the child is in the basement shooting up. Naturally, Becker shoulders some of the blame. She and her husband tried to shelter their children from the worst aspects of modern culture, home-schooling and banning most TV programs, which seems to have lent Hunter “the quality of a lost person, of someone without a map.” Sensitive and intelligent, he exhibited a desire for risk-taking and sensation, very much unlike his mother, who confesses to never having taken drugs even in “the freewheeling 1970s.” As she learned, the decades separating her era from her son’s constitute a vast gulf, unbridgeable in the end. That end is, of course, tragic. Becker’s account is rueful and increasingly self-aware. She moves from a kind of wide-eyed innocence to a recognition that the whole thing is, as a chapter title has it, “totally fucked,” but always with a backward glance at where she went wrong. Was it too much indulgence, too much protection? Probably not; as she writes of her son, “he was fully equipped for happiness—we gave him all the tools." All the same, as she writes, drugs and addiction recognize no boundaries and put the lie to the best of intentions.

An unblinking portrait of how drugs destroy lives.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60938-659-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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