Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Review: Blackout by Sarah Hepola

From Goodreads:
Alcohol was "the gasoline of all adventure" for Sarah Hepola. She spent her evenings at cocktail parties and dark bars where she proudly stayed till last call. Drinking felt like freedom, part of her birthright as a strong, enlightened twenty-first-century woman. 

But there was a price. She often blacked out, waking up with a blank space where four hours should have been. Mornings became detective work on her own life. What did I say last night? How did I meet that guy? She apologized for things she couldn't remember doing, as though she were cleaning up after an evil twin. Publicly, she covered her shame with self-deprecating jokes, and her career flourished, but as the blackouts accumulated, she could no longer avoid a sinking truth. The fuel she thought she needed was draining her spirit instead.

A memoir of unblinking honesty and poignant, laugh-out-loud humor, Blackout is the story of a woman stumbling into a new kind of adventure--the sober life she never wanted. Shining a light into her blackouts, she discovers the person she buried, as well as the confidence, intimacy, and creativity she once believed came only from a bottle. Her tale will resonate with anyone who has been forced to reinvent or struggled in the face of necessary change. It's about giving up the thing you cherish most--but getting yourself back in return. 
Writing
This is Hepola's first book, but not her first experience with writing.  She writes for several major online publications and is the personal essay editor at Salon.com.  So she knows what she's doing when she writes a personal story about her lifelong issues with drinking to the point of blackout.  It's a short book, but it packs a punch.  I couldn't stop reading and finished it in two sittings.  If I had had it available at home instead of just on my work computer, I'd probably have finished it in one.  She's honest and up front about her hardest and most difficult moments, but isn't self-pitying or self-loathing.  Her writing style is easy to relate to, almost as if you're sitting down having a cup of coffee and listening to her tell her story.

Entertainment Value
The main draw of memoir for me is being able to immerse myself in a completely foreign experience.  I grew up pretty strictly Southern Baptist and didn't taste a drop of alcohol until well after my 21st birthday.  Even today I almost rarely drink and it's a major taboo in my family.  That made is extra fascinating to me to see so deeply into Hepola's early childhood experiences with alcohol and her abuse of it as an adult.  I felt like she did an amazing job of presenting her story without either castigating herself or feeling sorry for herself.  Walking that line made it so easy to sympathize with her and cheer for her and her recovery.  And I think she goes the extra mile in bringing out reasons for her drinking and how it became a coping mechanism that even those of us who haven't dealt with alcohol issues could relate to her journey in some way.

Overall
I highly recommend getting a copy of this.  I think it's excellently done, engrossing, and makes for a quick read.  Nothing to complain about and potentially helpful to both those who are struggling with alcohol issues and those who are struggling with any coping issues, trauma, or areas where they lack self-control (so basically everyone).

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

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