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Author: Andrew Seaward
Publisher: Self Published
DISCLAIMER: This book contains a lot of graphic language and explicit scenes. Not recommended for a young reader.
The story is told through the narrative of three addicts: M0nty is an alcoholic who had been sober for a year until his fiance died in a car crash, for which he feels responsible; Dave is a self-delusional crack addict, high school volleyball coach who blames everyone else for his problems; Angie is a meth-head whose marriage has fallen apart and begins her story with a sexual relationship with a man who used to date her high school daughter.
These, certainly, are sick individuals.
As the novel develops, their stories merge as they meet at a rehabilitation center called The Sanctuary. Throughout the book, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Which one of these is the sickest?” Every time I thought I had the “sickest” one pinned down, a turn of events revealed a new title winner.
Andrew Seaward does a phenomenal job in his characterization. He admitted to me that he pulled some material from his own life experience, but this is often when authors create caricatures instead of characters. Seaward pulls it off without falling for this trap, and does so rather well.
The writing style packs a punch, but at times it hits so hard with graphic descriptions that I had to actually skip pages because the scene felt so immediate and painful. For example, there is a scene when Monty finds himself in the hospital after a night of binging. He tries to escape, but in order to get away he has to remove a urine cathater from inside himself. As a man, I couldn’t help but shiver at the details.
Still, the quality of the book’s prose allowed it to claim (and earn) the genre of literary fiction.
Sentences like these stood out:
As they wandered in, so did the stench of stale cigarettes, following them in like a stray cat from the cold.
The car was now completely filled with water, plummeting towards the bottom like a cinderblock.
He always felt better after his morning throw-up.
Real pain wasn’t external … it was internal. It was having to look at yourself in the mirror every f—— day.
As a reader, I was caught up with cheering for a group of addicts who maybe didn’t deserve to be saved. Their actions, their violence, their delusions almost assure them self destruction. As the book progressed, it became harder and harder to determine which (if any) of these characters would make it out of The Sanctuary alive.
At any moment, any of them might rebound. Around every corner, there was an opportunity for healing and self discovery. If only I could figure out which of them was the least sick.
Overall, the book provided a powerful, fast-paced read. The prose latches on and moves with a fierce velocity. Mayhem is already steaming down hill by the time the story even gets started. Not for the faint of heart.
There were only a few minor problems that ulitimately pushed for a four-star rating instead of a perfect five.
The first was that I had a hard time buying into the idea that the entire storyline took place in just a few weeks from start to finish. But this could be overlooked.
The second issue was the tremendous amount of rhetorical questions the characters posed throughout the book. I think bringing up a few rhetoricals to show a character’s confusion or inner struggle is fine, but when the questions start adding up in the dozens they begin to make the novel feel unpolished. Many of these could have been rewritten as belief statements instead of questions and still achieve that sense of insecurity and instability, but without coming across repetitive or somewhat cluttered.
The final problem I had was the extremely heavy dose of explicit language and details used. Now, to be fair, all explicit language used to bring a character’s drug addiction to life and make it feel real to the reader, that needed to stay. But there were moments when descriptions of depravity or sexually explicit content went overboard. For example, there was an extensive scene (which I had to skip) describing Dave (the high school volleyball coach) involved with pornography in his office at work. This scene must have gone on for 3 or 4 pages, something that could have been summarized to a paragraph and still achieve the desired effect for the sake of characterization.
What I loved about the book from a personal perspective is how well it depicted man’s self delusion when caught in the midst of his addiction. Usually an addict turns defensive, combative and isolated. The novel helped reveal some of my own characteristics in dealing with a personal addiction (not drugs), which made a big statement about the story’s realism.
The novel is a solid debut. It is believable, powerful and holds your face to the fumes of addiction in very imminent ways. Without a doubt, this book deserves four sick stars.
Below you can watch a video trailer for the book, created by the author himself.