New Release Nonfiction: The Recovering

April 16, 2018 Uncategorized 11 ★★★★

New Release Nonfiction: The RecoveringTitle: The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath
Author: Leslie Jamison
Source: from publisher for review

Summary: Thoughtful, beautifully written, important, highly recommended.

The Recovering is a “blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and journalistic reportage.” Drawing on her personal experience battling alcoholism, Leslie Jamison delves into the “stories we tell about addiction.” She dissects the prejudices that change those narratives depending on their subject’s race, class, and gender. As a writer, she is also particularly interested in the trope of the tortured artist, numbing their pain or fueling their genius with substance abuse. Throughout, she engages thoughtfully with previous writing on addiction, but makes the argument that recovery can be an equally interesting topic. (quote source)

I haven’t yet read The Empathy Exams, so this was my first experience with Leslie Jamison’s writing. It more than lived up to my expectations! It’s some of the first nonfiction I’ve wanted to describe as ‘literary’. I could see some people finding it pretentious, but I just found it smart and thought provoking. She has a fascinating way of coming at a topic from many angles, considering all sides of an issue and making the reader do the same. At first, I wasn’t in love with the number of quotes she used. It felt like their were too many digressions and too little of her voice. However, she revisits many of the same books and people throughout her book. This allowed me to become familiar with them. It also made them feel like an integral part of the story, woven together with her personal experiences. The reading experience became like eavesdropping on a conversation between people much smarter and more informed than I on the fascinating topic of addiction, recovery, and how both are viewed in American culture.

Despite the strong memoir component, I didn’t find this a particularly emotionally engaging book. I could intellectually understand what the author went through, but I can’t imagine how she felt. I think this is partly because her writing was more intellectual than emotional. It may also simply be true that you have to share the experience of addiction to truly understand it. I did find this story amazingly honest, raw, personal. I can’t imagine choosing to share something so personal. I appreciate her bravery in telling this story though, because I think it opens an important conversation. It really did make me see the world a little bit differently.

11 Responses to “New Release Nonfiction: The Recovering”

  1. Susie | Novel Visits

    I’ve wondered about The Recovering so really appreciate your review. It’s a tough topic and it sounds like the author handled it honestly and with a lot of thought. Might be a little too deep for me right now, but I’m going to keep it in mind for Nonfiction November. Thanks!

    • DoingDewey

      It was a bit deep and pretty long, but I really enjoyed it and I think it would make a perfect Nonfiction November read 🙂

  2. whatsnonfiction

    I’ve been curious about this one! I read what sounds like a more lighthearted (if you can imagine such a thing) version of an alcohol addiction story, Sarah Hepola’s Blackout, a couple years ago and it made me reconsider addiction stories because previously that wasn’t an area I was particularly interested in. I also haven’t read Empathy Exams but have heard so much about it. This sounds fascinating, and especially if it’s one to make you look at the world differently. Those are few and far between!

    • DoingDewey

      I could definitely see someone writing a memoir that felt lighter than this, despite dealing with such a heavy topic. I know some of my favorite fiction manages to feel light, but still address important issues – Liane Moriarty’s books, for example.

      With this book, the author’s experiences were quite different from my own and she had an interesting way of looking at things. Both of those things made it a book that changed my perspective.

  3. Heather

    I love books that challenge my point of view or make me see things differently. I am super excited about this one now.

    • DoingDewey

      I’m glad to hear it! This seems to be getting mostly rave reviews, so I’m optimistic you’ll enjoy it as much as I did 🙂

  4. Ruthiella

    I liked The Empathy Exams quite a bit. I agree that Jamison is really good writer…I think you will like The Empathy Exams because she does insert herself in to every essay almost. It is quite personal and the last essay was stellar. I need to re-read it. I will be on the look out for this title as well.

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