By Roxana Robinson
Published May 2009 by Picador
Source: Publisher for online book club
Jack Lambert is the son of divorced college professors, a sometimes musician, and a the family black sheep. When his brother Steven stops by Jack's place on his way to his mother's Maine cottage, he becomes very concerned about Jack. When he voices his concerns to his mother, she is initially unwilling to accept that Steven believes that Jack is addicted to heroin. But when she starts to put things together and then talks to Jack's dad, Wendall, she decides the family needs to take action. With her elderly parents staying with her, Julia decides that what Jack needs is a family intervention, so she talks Wendall into bringing Jack to Maine. When they arrive, it's apparent to both Steven and Wendall that Jack is in bad shape; Julia is slower to realize what is happening. But when Jack decides to take the family boat out on the cove, unlighted and at night and has to be rescued, the police become involved and Jack's addiction spirals out of control.
This is the story of one family's struggle with addiction. It is heart wrenching in places and clearly Robinson knows what she is talking about. If you are a parent, this book will scare you. Although, to be honest, I think that Wendall and Julia did not necessarily handle Jack in the way that most parents would. They were so quick to write off the trouble that Jack got into as just being the way Jack is, despite evidence that he was slipping into drug addiction.
Robinson's writing caught me up right away:
"Julia wanted her parents here-she loved them-but their presence altered her gravity. She had to struggle to stay upright. "
"What she felt when her parents were here was something large and unsayable, confusing, nearly unbearable. Affection, anxiety, resentment..."
"When they were here, the house seemed small and ill equipped, the doors put on backward, the light switches unconnected, a troubling dreamscape where nothing was right."
I immediately had a sense of the relationship Julia had with her parents; Robinson was equally adept at portraying all of the relationships.
Where this book fell flat for me was the pacing and Robinson's tendency to repeat things or drag things out more than I felt was necessary. I found myself skimming over passages and even pages. But ultimately, this is such a strong story of addiction and it's effects on families, that I was glad that I read it.
Thanks to Gayle at Everyday I Write The Book for bringing this book to the book club. For the club's discussion of the book, please click here.