Hello, and Welcome Readers and Friends,
“I have a you treat for readers today! My dear friend and fellow Author, J. A. Wright has a featured intimate book review by New Zealand Booklovers on their Fabulous website. Yes, after living many years in the Pacific Northwest, Jodi had moved abroad to New Zealand. She enjoys living there with her family. And why not? It seems to fit with her being a unique author and writer.” *Cat*
HOW TO GROW AN ADDICT BY J.A. WRIGHT
| NOVEMBER 19, 2015
This month, I have been addicted to books about addiction. Like a book junky, even if I didn’t want to read more, I just had to. Any book that has come my way with its focus being on self-destruction, self-hatred, or self-analysis, and the attempt to tame the beast of self with proscribed substances, I have devoured. That’s my bag, you see – having personal experiences with addiction, I’m always morbidly attracted to the stories of people with similar crosses to bear.
Over the past few weeks I have plowed through Keith Richards’s memoir,Life, following it up with Anthony Kiedis’s Scar Tissue, and then moved swiftly on to Marilyn Manson’s ode to oddity, Long Hard Road out of Hell.
Enough, I thought, as I read the last tales of scoring eight balls and snorting cocaine off of prostitutes. I stacked the books up on my bookshelf, regained the will to live and thought perhaps of moving on to some kind of lighter material, picking up a copy of Woman’s Weekly; a publication so light, it practically floats if it is not weighed down. But it wasn’t to be, How to Grow an Addict, debut novel from New Zealand author J. A Wright, popped through my letterbox and after reading only half the blurb, I felt compelled to read on.
Having not inspected the front cover properly, until about half way through the book I had it in my mind that this novel was an autobiography. I had assumed that Randall Grange, the young, troubled addict protagonist of the piece was not a fictional character. Randall was written so realistically, so vividly and insightfully, that How to Grow an Addict read like one of the better autobiographical tales of addiction and redemption. To its credit,How to Grow an Addict is a wonderfully straightforward read, and not at all trite or contrived; there really isn’t any glorification in this story of a young girl trying to navigate growing up in the midst of a turbulent home life, often the sufferer of benign neglect at the hands of her equally troubled parents.
It is hard to pinpoint in this novel exactly where things start to go so wrong for Randall because it is seemingly nothing and everything that leads to her demise. The severity of her problems with substances and addiction are not over-sauced, so it is both shocking and a complete non-surprise when Randall crashes and burns one last time, and is tricked into entering a rehabilitation center. It takes a particular type of writer to capture all at once the banality and torture of addiction without being hackneyed or over-sentimental – J. A Wright excels at this. Her approach to the topic in this debut novel brought to mind passages from The Bell Jar; how one can be so entrenched in behavior that it seems completely normal in its absolute dysfunctionality.
The cynic in me usually wants this type of fiction to end in horrific tragedy, because that just seems more realistic; surely it’s only natural for some heroin addicts to take it too far and die in a public toilet of an overdose, or for a man to lose everything due to drink and never get his shot at redemption, but I genuinely found myself hoping for Randall’s recovery inHow to Grow an Addict, that’s how invested I was in her as a character. Now, perhaps I’m mellowing, or perhaps exceptional writing negated my inherent nihilism and all-around jaded attitude where “happy “endings are concerned. Perhaps . . .
About The Author:
How to Grow an Addict is J.A. Wright’s debut novel. Named best book of 2015 by Redbook/Good Housekeeping magazine and a finalist in both the 2015 USA Best Book Awards and 2015 Foreward Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award and Bronze winner in the 2016 IPPY Awards for Literary Fiction.
J.A. Wright has been in recovery from addiction since 1985. Raised in the Pacific NW, she moved to New Zealand with her young family in 1990. Visit her website for more about Author, J. A. Wright: Jodi A Wright Website .
The review for How to Grow an Addict received 5 stars.
“J.A. Wright’s How to Grow an Addict is a novelization about Randall, a young girl who is trying to navigate the testy waters of her family life and come out unscathed despite growing up in a house full of addicts and abusers. It reads like a memoir, a sort of “come clean” string of consciousness that chronicles her rise (or rather, fall) from a young girl to a young woman.
The novel is literally what the title implies, a sort of explanation of a series of factors both genetic and environmental that lead to the rise of a small, precocious, and anxious child becoming a full-blown addict. Randall has an abusive father and a mother who has a hard time defending her as it is clear that she’s terrified of losing him (going so far as to get breast implants in a failed attempt to stop him from sleeping around). He behaves like he hates Randall, and she chews her fingernails to nubs as a result – and has a hard time functioning in a normal world without fidgeting.
Randall is immensely likable, and though the reader begins to see her make a series of missteps as she gets older in an attempt to seek love in “all the wrong places,” the novel never takes on a judgmental tone.
Randall is just a girl who’s trying to navigate a very difficult situation that gets increasingly more difficult as life takes away some of her fiercest protectors and supporters. She is selfish, but only in a way that an addict is – someone who cannot see past their impulsive decisions into what the consequences may mean. It doesn’t matter to her as she’s just trying to get by in the only way she knows how. Her family resembles a million families, and some readers might even see some parallels between her family and their own in an alcoholic, abusive father who prioritizes a son above a daughter and creates another monster in the process; her brother who comes to hate her and lack empathy as much as her father does; her mother who is not perfect, but sad and unable to manage an angry and abusive husband, and who turns to anti-anxiety pills and alcohol as a way to cope.