Author: Amy Liptrot
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review By: Shana
A thoughtful memoir recounting the author's alcoholism and journey to sobriety. Much here is not new, though it is rendered in lovely prose. In many ways, addiction stories are similar, with lives spiraling out of control, friendships tested, health endangered, and usually an undercurrent of trying to escape the traumas and disappointments (whether big or small) of life. Then again, each person is individual and the vagaries of life that led them to the substance they come to abuse are different.
For Liptrot, she hailed from a family where her father struggled mightily with mental illness and was often at odds with her evangelical mother. Likewise, Liptrot suspected that she might have some of her father's manic and depressive tendencies. For her, her drinking started out in the normal range for her age and social circle but became more intense, less controlled, and eventually wrecked her relationship with a boyfriend, made her job untenable, led to a series of incredibly reckless encounters, and finally forced her to face the fact that she needed to get help.
Where this memoir does stand out from others is that her recovery is played out in the landscape of her childhood - the Orkney Islands off of Scotland. Liptrot describes this windswept and severe setting with great skill, making the cliffs and sea come alive, painting the summer's night-less sky with magic, and introducing us to the solitude and camaraderie of these lightly populated places (where wildlife often outnumbers people).
As she comes to terms with sobriety, she finds herself attempting to accept life without alcohol, working to sever the neurological connections that have been built up over years of drinking. Liptrot obviously struggles to find meaning and purpose for herself, and to really live each day, rather than just trying not to drink. In doing so, she takes long walks and explores her home island and others in the grouping. She takes a job that involves canvassing the island in search of a rare bird, she joins a group that swims in the always frigid seas, she writes and reads and takes time to gain strength and perspective and confidence.
While Liptrot's journey from addiction to sobriety to some measure of contentment is not unique, having it take place in this remote part of the world makes the book well worth the time.
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...