It would be hard to imagine a less reliable narrator for this disjointed memoir, but the shaky perspective adds to the emotional power and unflinching honesty.
Before writing this memoir, Roberge published four works of fiction (The Cost of Living, 2013, etc.), and he has continued to teach creative writing at the university level while playing guitar in a punk-rock band. He has also battled anxiety attacks and a bipolar condition with prescribed medication and self-medication, suffered a series of concussions that doctors fear have already caused brain damage, has been in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous, and has hit a bottom so low that, as recently as six years ago, all he was “capable of writing [were] suicide notes. In nine months…forty-seven suicide notes.” By “you,” he means himself, establishing an intimacy with readers through the use of the second person, confessing more here than he previously has to many who have known him, loved him, or worked with him. “After attempting to hide your mental illness from most of the people in your life since your late teens, in the end you fall apart in a very public forum,” he writes. Through a series of chronological leaps and flashbacks that defy linear logic, the story proceeds from the unsolved murder of a childhood friend, through his sexual awakening and fetishes, his series of girlfriends and passing sexual conquests, his marriage to a woman who became very ill and whose pain medication he stole, and the blackouts and lies with which he has attempted to come to terms. It’s actually surprising to readers who have crawled through all this wreckage when he remarks toward the end, “you’ve been clean and sober for nineteen of the last twenty years.” The bleakness of the preceding pages offers few glimmers of such redemption, which the author notes is fragile and might be transitory.
Roberge acknowledges his editor for helping “find the book within the book,” but that book still has a cut-and-paste quality as it arbitrarily leaps back and forth across decades.