Tag: drug addiction

Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing Book Review

Matthew Perry

I found Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing depressing, jaded, and one of the most powerful memoirs I have read written by an addict. (For a comparison click here.) Perhaps a paradox, but nevertheless true. But some background is needed on my perspective. I never saw the series Friends during its’ initial run. Not a single episode.

The show debuted in the fall of 1994. I had lost two immediate family members in just six months, had three young kids and was teaching twelve credits at a local community college. Television was not part of my vocabulary.

By the time the series ended in 2004, I had an additional child and the two oldest were in high school. My relaxation came in the written form while soaking in a tub full of bubble bath. But, during the isolation of Covid-19, I began to watch re-runs and the cast of Friends was incredible. Including Matthew Perry.

Big Terrible Thing

However, I have not seen enough episodes to pick up on his constant battle with addiction. So, the memoir was disturbing and a bit depressing. The author at times came off as jaded. But his ending message is powerful. Addiction has destroyed his body. He is fortunate more relationships were not ruined.

Names are dropped, but I would not classify Perry as a name dropper. On occasion he with holds an identity. But the message is still the same. His ongoing battle with addiction has interfered with his happiness. And with most long-term female relationships. It was troubling.

The big terrible thing in my opinion is how close to the edge his life will always be. I feel for anyone faced with this disease. And I am firmly in the camp that believes it is a disease.

Concluding Thoughts

Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing is a difficult read. A cursory look reflects an artificial comic. One gets the feeling that for most of his life Perry was an “all about me” person. The tragedy lies in the hidden demons. And at some point, blame needs to fall within. The past is the past. Perry alludes to this. Even acknowledges how his parents always stuck by him- even though he blames his upbringing for his insecurities.

The book is a powerful look at dealing with the demons within. It is written to help those who struggle. And to offer an explanation to those who are on the outside looking in. I don’t know if it will help with the former, but it succeeds with the latter. Unfortunately, addiction cannot be solved by outsiders. Only the individual afflicted can beat the curse. It is my sincere hope Mr. Perry, and all other addicts can overcome their internal enslavement.

Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing book cover featuring head shot of Matthew Perry.

Lights All Night Long Book Review

New literary voices are fun to discover. Lydia Fitzpatrick’s debut novel Lights All Night Long will appeal to readers of multiple genres. Unsolved murders lurk in the background of this novel exploring contemporary issues.

Exchange Student

The protagonist is high school exchange student Ilya Alexandrovich from a remote part of Russia. The town is connected to an energy company which arranges exchanges of students to a Louisiana town also revolving around an energy company. Hence the title Lights All Night Long.

Fitzpatrick utilizes flashback chapters to explain how and why Ilya arrives with a burden. The change of location keeps the story line straight. But there are many similarities between the two towns which reach far beyond the refineries. One could substitute for the other.

Contemporary Issues

The author subtly presents the split between students who become engaged in learning and those that fall prey to outside sources. There is a large presence of drugs in both towns and the writer successfully demonstrates the many forces involved in drug abuse. Along with the use of drugs and alcohol, the novel touches upon teen sex as an outgrowth of the disengagement of students from school activities.

Murder Plot

Entwined with the story of Ilya and his brother Vladimir are a series of brutal murders. A major twist occurs when Vladimir confesses to the crimes. But Ilya does not believe the confession. Furthermore, he is determined to prove the confession was coerced.

Lights All Night Long in America

Ilya’s exchange family is given the contemporary stereotype of Evangelical Christians. But the oldest child, Sadie, does not quite fit in. Yet, she has her own reasons for staying out of the hardcore drug scene.

Between Ilya and Sadie, Fitzpatrick demonstrates through the actions of her characters the close binds of family. Both youngsters rise above the drug drenched culture found in many places today. But both are loyal to those captured by drug addiction.

Lights All Night Long is an excellent debut novel. The chapter flashbacks are a key part of the story. Lydia Fitzpatrick does a good job of moving the story along during the flashbacks and the current day chapters. The twists and turns in the murder plot keep the reader turning the pages.

But what I liked best about the book were the characters. At first glimpse many seem stereotypical. But they are not. Each develops into a complex human being. Perfection does not exist, but neither does total failure. Above all, there is love.




My Brother’s Keeper Book Review

My Brother’s Keeper by Donna Malane is a captivating picture of the world-wide drug crisis. Both Malane and the setting for My Brother’s Keeper are New Zealand based. But readers everywhere will be able to relate to the events. The novel falls into the category of murder mystery.

My Brother’s Keeper

Diane Rowe, the protagonist of the story, is an investigator specializing in finding missing persons. Her client, Karen Mackie hires her to find her fourteen year old daughter. Mackie has just been released from a seven-year prison stint. On the surface everything seems straightforward. Rowe is to find the daughter and report back how she is doing. No promise of a reunion is involved.

However, many intrigues pop up in My Brother’s Keeper. Malane uses flashbacks to tell the story and the scenes are very effective. The events which landed Mackie behind bars are seen through the eyes of a seven-year old. Without spoiling the story, heavy drug use is involved.

Complications arise for Diane Rowe. Some are connected to her background. She has an ex-husband who has remarried and he has forged a friendship with her new boyfriend. Both men are cops. Both are putting stresses on Rowe. Other problems stem from the life of the girl she traces. In the midst of all this intrigue is a murder.

Drug Epidemic

Life is not always what it seems. This is definitely the case in My Brother’s Keeper. The drug use of Karen Mackie destroyed her life. But she found religion in prison and came to terms with the past. Her wish is for the rest of the family to experience the same grace. The death of her youngest child was her awakening point.

Malane’s final twist is a heart breaker. I don’t know the author’s motivation, but her portrayal of the many damages of drug use is key to the story line. Mackie’s addiction affected multiple people, not just the lost child and herself. Families of addicts are impacted as much as the individual and My Brother’s Keeper is an excellent vehicle for this message. Fair warning, the ending brought tears to my eyes.

Drug use is showing up in quite a few of the books I have read recently. I am a firm believer that art reflects life.  My Brother’s Keeper takes place in New Zealand.  So drugs are all over the world. Hopefully, novels like this will make readers stop and see the far-reaching ramifications of drug use.

I highly recommend this book. The author uses Diane Rowe and Karen Mackie as mirrors. Both women have pasts that they wish to move on from. Some individuals end up with more regrets than others. My Brother’s Keeper shows how strong a mother’s love is as well as how destructive addiction can be. The novel paves a way for a future of redemption.