A memoir that floats like a sad song, with its themes the effervescence of champagne and the flatness of the morning after.
Cheever (A Woman’s Life, 1994) has written about her life and her family’s before, notably in Home Before Dark, her memoir of her father, John. This book changes the angle of the mirror, focusing on the role of alcohol in her growing up, her affairs and marriages, the birth of her two children, and her work. Drinking was her heritage: The ship on which her ancestors came to the New World carried “three times as much beer as water, along with ten thousand gallons of wine.” Her grandmother taught her how to mix martinis when she was six years old. In her family’s suburban household, drinks were taken before, during, and after dinner and at Sunday brunch. In college, and later in the Deep South during the civil rights summers of 1965 and 1966, she found herself a part of “a bunch of us kids from Ivy League colleges . . . [who] went to parties and drank a lot. . . . “ Cheever, now fiftysomething, rafted through life on a river of alcohol; her pain was dulled, but so were her judgment and memory. She accompanied her father to AA meetings, yet even though the stories told sometimes paralleled hers, there was always a detail “too bizarre” to let her label herself as an alcoholic. Her two children finally moved her to stop drinking, and a new belief in God allowed her to succeed. “They say that drinking is a low-level search for God,” Cheever avers; now new—or restored—faith in God has reportedly moved her to another level.
A poignant and forthright tale of a rugged journey by an extraordinarily gifted writer—who may be borrowing from her father’s story to define her own life.