Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
e-book/ARC, 368 p.
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)
From the publisher:The author has called her second novel, Drinking Closer to Home, “a memoir with changed names*”. Apparently some things were embellished, time has been compressed in places, and different outcomes written in certain situations, but for the most part this is the story of her family, and is definitely a good example of writing what you know. It’s no doubt because of this that the characters all felt incredibly real, and the story as a whole came across as very honest.
There is nothing like ten days with one's family to bring forth old obsessions and stir up childhood memories. When Anna, Portia, and Emery’s mother, Louise, suffers a massive heart attack, the three grown children return to Santa Barbara to be with their father, Buzzy, as they wait for Louise to either recover or die.
Anna can’t stop thinking about sex with strangers, although in junior high she was terrifyingly certain that her free-loving parents had syphilis (from which they would shortly die). Portia’s beach-bunny teen years feel far away as she struggles with an unfaithful husband who has left her feeling boneless and unsure. And though Emery’s greatest childhood fear was that The Law would catch up with their parents for any one of their numerous transgressions (marijuana plants in the backyard; peeing in public; the time Louise quit being a housewife and gave Emery's care over to eight-year-old Portia), now his only worry is that he won’t be able to create his own family, a newer, better, improved version that will trump the impetuousness and chaos that ruled his childhood home.
But this time together will also bring to the surface sometimes painful, often heartbreaking secrets that will shake the foundations of everything the three siblings know about themselves and assume about their family. Secrets that may, perhaps, change the way they view the past as well as the future.
Reading this book was a bit of a strange experience for me though. I have to admit that for most of the book, I really didn’t like any of the characters. Knowing they were based on actual people made me feel a little guilty but I was simply too annoyed by how self-absorbed, and self-destructive they were. And don’t get me started on the mother! No wonder they were all emotionally flawed after growing up like that.
However, despite the many extreme situations that they found themselves in, or even at times, that they created for themselves, there were actually a lot of humourous moments too. It’s true what they say about laughter being a coping mechanism. Whether they were ridiculing each other, or making fun of themselves, ultimately they were laughing together, and in their own unique way were able to get over the otherwise unpleasant moments of life.
So by the end of the book, I almost kind of wished that I were a part of this crazy, dysfunctional, yet loving, family. A family that is able to come through the neglect, the various addictions, the extra-marital affairs, and all the rest of it, to be there for each other when it really counts. I think that says a lot, really.
Jessica Anya Blau's website
*Sad But True (Well, Mostly): Tapping real-life family crises for comedy in 'Drinking Closer to Home' (Interview on AustinChronicle.com)
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Also reviewed by:
Teresa's Reading Corner
Book, Line, and Sinker
Life in the Thumb
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