Monday, July 29, 2013

Double Double

Having one alcoholic in the family is bad enough, but it seldom stops there.  Sadly enough, alcoholism is a never-ending problem for many families, one that can devastate them for generations.  In Double Double: A Dual Memoir of Alcoholism, popular mystery writer Martha Grimes and her son Ken very frankly share their own struggles to get, and remain, sober.

The pair, in alternate chapters and several "conversations," look both backward and forward in their lives, revisiting the times and events during which they became addicts, their struggles to survive their addictions, the manner in which they finally got themselves sober, what their lives are like today, and what their hopes are for the future.  Despite living in the same house during the worst of all of this, Martha and Ken managed to hide their problems from each other, or were so caught up in their individual struggles with addiction, that neither was much aware of what the other was experiencing. 

Ken, in particular, appears to have been a master of deception, the rather typical teenager who easily managed to hide his real life from his mother.  Martha, on the other hand, made alcohol such a constant part of her everyday life that the lifestyle seemed perfectly normal to her and her son.  There was no need for Martha to hide her drinking from Ken because it really did not seem to be all that unusual to either of them.

Martha Grimes
Despite the similarities in their stories, what are likely to intrigue readers most are the pair's different approaches to attaining and maintaining sobriety.  Ken is a true believer in AA's Twelve-Step approach, while Martha seems to have been so put off by the program's more overtly religious aspects that she could not tolerate the meetings.  She preferred, instead, the clinical approach but is frank about that approachs limitations and the ease in which some alcoholics manipulate both their therapy and their therapists. 

Double Double, despite Martha's assertion that its readers are all likely to be wondering whether they themselves are alcoholics, is filled with revealing insights that nondrinkers and social drinkers will find useful.  Certainly, some readers will realize that they are on the brink of similar problems - and others will find that they have already crossed that line.  But even nondrinkers who have only experienced alcoholism second-hand via observation of a distant family member or friend will come away from the book with a better understanding of the problem (Martha only reluctantly calls it a disease) than they had going in. 

Bottom Line: Double Double is a very readable and honest memoir in which its two authors are not afraid to embarrass themselves and each other.  What they have to say about alcoholism is important, and their willingness to expose themselves this way will help others to solve, or even avoid, a similar experience in their own lives.

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