OFF THE RAILS by Susan  Burrowes


One Family’s Journey Through Teen Addiction
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A despairing mother and a defiant teenage daughter confront drug addiction in Burrowes’ debut memoir.

In the years leading up to tenth grade, Hannah Burrowes lived a happy, healthy life with her family. By the time she was 15, though, she’d progressed from “moody to malicious,” according to her mother, the author of this memoir. A self-proclaimed outsider, unimpressed by her “Mean Barbie” classmates, she gravitated toward the art-fueled scene of downtown Santa Cruz, California, where she was enthralled by what she calls its “wave of weirdness.” The memoir goes on to relate how the teen’s recreational drug use spiraled into a full-blown, life-threatening addiction, involving regular use of Ecstasy, OxyContin, and psychedelics. The deterioration of her relationship with her family became such that her mother lived in fear of her, and in time, she was sent off to a tough residential rehabilitation program in Utah, where she would face a brutally cold winter. It’s a desperate story of teen addiction, punctuated by misdiagnosis, overdose, and rehabilitation. In the memoir’s foreword, Burrowes writes: “During our two years of treatment, I learned that there can be more than one truth, more than one way of thinking.” This revelation shapes the structure of the narrative, as each event is examined from both the mother’s and daughter’s perspectives. It effectively reveals the voice of a scared mom questioning her approach to parenting (“all I find are the taunts of an oppositional teenager and my angry words. Did I miss something? What have I done?”) and that of an equally frightened, confused young girl who lost control: “I really don’t know how many pills I took, I don’t fucking know how drinking or taking E makes lithium stronger, but they keep telling me it does and that I’m screwed.” As a result, the ugly anatomy of addiction is laid bare, using plain, unadulterated language drawn from the rawness of personal experience. Those facing similar challenges will find courage and hope in this informative memoir’s outcome.

A brave, if harrowing, work that addresses the issues surrounding mental health, treatment, and rehabilitation head-on.

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-63152-467-7
Page count: 312pp
Publisher: She Writes Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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