While Zarr may have missed the mark for me on the religious aspect of this book, she does well at portraying what it is like to have someone suffering from addiction in the family. It’s mostly in the little moments, where Sam is remembering things like helping her mother put on her lipstick before going out because her hands were shaking too much before her first drink of the day; or telling her mom that the dinner party is going fine and everything looks perfect and making sure no one finds the spiked punch hidden in the kitchen. Even the portrayal of her father’s denial, his refusal to announce the situation to the congregation and not ask for prayers he desperately needs, is very real. There is a certain level of denial in an addicted family, and not just on the part of the person who is using. There is an unwillingness to admit to the bigger problem: our family is suffering because my wife/mother/husband/father/child is self medicating a mental illness we refuse to admit exists. Addiction and mental illness are a family disease, not solitary ones.
You can read the rest of this review at Notes in the Margin