SHOOT THE DAMN DOG by Sally Brampton


A Memoir of Depression
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Sobering account of a British fashion writer’s struggles with alcoholism and clinical depression.

The daughter of an oil-industry executive whose work took him to posts throughout the world, Brampton (Love, Always, 2000, etc.) spent much of her childhood in the Middle East, South America and Africa. In a debut memoir weakened in early chapters by a deluge of dull scientific data on depression, the author asserts that her peripatetic upbringing in an emotionless family left her vulnerable to mental illness and dependency on alcohol. Unable to shake her increasingly dark moods and daily consumption of at least two bottles of wine, Brampton eventually sought professional help. She writes with arch and revealing wit about her on-again-off-again odyssey with antidepressants, detox centers, in-patient psychiatric facilities, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and addiction therapy sessions (during which participants bandied “Group of Drunks” as an acronym for God). Brampton is especially skilled at detailing the self-delusion, denial and furtive uncontrolled drinking that, she notes, compound the real and imagined pain of those in the grips of alcoholism and despair. She devotes a chilling chapter to her ultimately ill-fated decision to withdraw cold turkey from prescription drugs that had kept her, despite complications, on a relatively even keel. Writing with stoic, self-mocking charm, she attributes her failed suicide attempts to unreliable Internet chatter on the best methods to achieve a fatal overdose. Still, Brampton notes that her triumphs as an acclaimed journalist helped her to maintain a nurturing, upbeat relationship with her teenage daughter through it all. In closing passages, the author writes of a hard-won recovery program that includes yoga, transcendental meditation, gardening, walking, B vitamins and abstinence from booze. She also married a man she’d distanced during the full-throttle phase of her disease.

A tough opening slog gives way to a compelling story.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-393-06678-4
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2008


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