Review: Nice Recovery

Nice Recovery
Susan Juby
Viking Canada
2010
9780670069170

This gripping memoir tells the story of author Susan Juby’s addiction to alcohol. As a socially awkward teen in a small town, Juby turned to alcohol to ease her through social situations. Her heavy drinking led to fights with friends, random hookups, and waking up in a strange place after blacking out. Though she always vowed never to drink again, she continued her turbulent relationship with alcohol until finally seeking help at 20 – an age when most of her peers were partying heavily.

This book was so good I couldn’t put it down, finishing in just over a day. Juby doesn’t try to glamourize her substance abuse but instead presents her story in an honest and often self-deprecating manner that can still cause the reader to smile despite the tragedy unfolding. At the end of the book, Juby presents the stories of other young people in recovery and discusses resources of interest to those struggling with substance abuse. A powerful read.

Review: The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy
J.K. Rowling
2012
Little, Brown and Company
978-0-316-22853-4

J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel begins with the death of Barry Fairbrother, a prominent member of the Pagford Parish Council who devoted much of his time to helping underprivileged kids from the Fields, the rough neighbourhood on the outskirts of town where he himself grew up. Barry’s death results in a casual vacancy on the council. The council is divided between those who wish to return the Fields to the city of Yarvil and shut down the local methadone clinic that aids several of its residents, and those who believe the Fields belong in Pagford and want to keep the clinic open. Conflict also exists in the homes of Pagford’s residents, and even those who appear to be the most upstanding of citizens have skeletons in their closets. Who will win the election, and what will the consequences be for the townspeople?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book given its mixed reviews. I loved the Harry Potter series, but this book is definitely not anything like Harry Potter and it’s not really fair to compare the two. I did find the book overly long. Not much happens in the first half, and some of the characters are just not that interesting. I was much more interested in reading about the teenagers’ struggles with their parents and their relationships with one another than I was in the election itself. The adults often seem too concerned about how they are perceived by others and obsess over trivial matters to a degree that is sometimes comical but oftentimes tedious. It wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read but I didn’t completely dislike it. I am curious to see what Ms. Rowling comes up with next.

Review: The Chaperone

The Chaperone
Laura Moriarty
2012
Riverhead Books
978-1-59448-701-9

It is 1922 and Wichita housewife Cora Carlisle has just accepted a job as chaperone to fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks as she embarks on a summer in New York City study at the Denishawn dance school. Dealing with strong-willed Louise and her mercurial moods proves challenging, but Cora has her own reasons for coming to New York. She is on a mission to find answers to a question that has long been haunting her. But what she finds isn’t what she expected.

I really enjoyed travelling back in time to the flapper era for a glimpse at the girl who would go on to become an icon. While the career of Louise Brooks is chronicled throughout the book, though, this is really Cora’s story. While at first Cora seems like an ordinary Midwestern housewife, her past is full of secrets that come to life over the course of this compelling novel.