Tuesday, May 14, 2013
This Dusty Bookshelf: Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska
This book is going to mean a lot to some people.
In the year after her son was born, Jowita Bydlowska relapsed into intense alcoholism. Three years after her recovery, her son now four years old, she's published this novel, a reflection, a walk-through of that year and everything she and her small family went through. She paints a clear brutal picture of addiction and the grip in which it can hold you.
I have never struggled with addiction - unless playing endless rounds of Candy Crush before bed counts, but I think that's the farthest thing from what Bydlowska and others who struggle with substance abuse experience - and I've never been a mom, so in some ways, I don't believe I experienced the full impact of the subject matter Bydlowska chose to address. She's received some flack for it with the critics, those who believe her memoir is nothing but a self-promoting exposé that will do nothing but hurt her son in the long run. I can't agree. Even though I can't relate to what Bydlowska went through, even though I know very little about alcoholism and have never experienced its painful impact, I know others, women, mothers, even children of alcoholics, to whom this book will become important, a reminder of the human behind the addiction.
Oh, so human it was.
Bydlowska chooses to approach the subject purely from a personal perspective. She leaves out research and statistics. She doesn't go into depth on ways to get clean, or the scientific explanation of what goes on during withdrawal and detox. Every word she writes is personal, experiential, a memoir in its truest sense.
Memoir or, perhaps, blog. When I started the first few pages, the first few chapters, I told the Husband, "I don't think I can handle this." It wasn't because of that gritty opening scene that finds her in a public bathroom snorting the cocaine she found in one of the stalls. It was because of the voice Bydlowska chose to write in.
You know that blog style?
The one in which the blogger separates out each sentence into its own paragraph?
As if each were so important, they need space around them.
Could you handle a whole book of it?
I thought I wasn't going to be able to. Honestly. Two chapters in, I was nearly ready to drop kick the book onto the lowest shelf on my bookcase, the one that collects all the dog hair. The story held me though, and I'm so glad it did, because I realized, halfway through, that style - while slightly annoying - contributed something to the reader's own sense of drunkenness. That space between each idea? I was familiar with it. It felt like I was tipsy, floating just outside of any situation, taking longer than normal to absorb the scene and form a thought. As I turned the last page of the book, that writing style, which I was dead-set against in the first two chapters, made the book for me.
Read this one. It's worth it.
(Full disclosure: I received my copy of Drunk Mom from Randomhouse Canada for review purposes. However, when I review a book for a publishing house, I am not required to give it a glowing review. All opinions in all of my reviews are exclusively my own and not influenced by any outside party.
Thanks for the copy Randomhouse! I truly appreciate it.)