In this well-written novel, an alcoholic must make peace with his childhood – and eschew the comfort of the bottle—before he can cope with the challenges of adulthood.
Daniel Zimmer, a child growing up in the 1970s, lives with his two brothers, Max and Harry, under the shadow of his abusive father and his tranquilizer-popping mother. When the family faces tragedy, Daniel begins to take refuge in drinking, first for solace, then as an escape. Pulled into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, he doesn’t really believe in its credos. But as he sees the destructive path his brother is currently taking, and as he becomes increasingly involved with an old childhood girlfriend who refuses to put up with his drinking, he either conquers his demons or loses everything.
What might have been a string of clichés about the value of AA is redeemed by the author’s smooth, evocative prose, well-drawn characters, and the intriguing time and place of 1970s Brooklyn. Anyone who grew up during that period will recognize Daniel and his brother Max as they embrace the early punk and heavy metal bands and live in the shadow of New York baseball mania.
The first chapter grabs readers in the opening two lines: “With the palms of his hands on his pale cheeks, Max sat at the kitchen table and moaned in pain. It was the morning of October 30, 1995 – a Monday – and my older brother had just tried to kill himself.”
As the book weaves back and forth between present and past, it also tackles a more universal theme. As Daniel matures, he begins to see his parents as individuals with their own struggles, often repeating the toxic behavior learned from their own parents.
The book comes across a bit heavy-handed in its AA messaging, which may be off-putting to some. However, for those who like stories of adults behaving badly—and the generational impact it has—Eon’s book is a thoughtful read.
Also available as an ebook.