Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Drinking Closer to Home by Jessica Anya Blau

Here is a summary of Drinking Closer to Home from the Goodreads website:

There is nothing like ten days with one’s family to bring forth old obsessions and stir up childhood memories. When Anna, Portia and Emery’s mother, Louise, suffers a massive heart attack, the three grown children return to Santa Barbara to be with their father, Buzzy, as they wait for Louise to either recover or die.

Anna can’t stop thinking about sex with strangers, although in junior high she was terrifyingly certain that her free-loving parents had syphilis (from which they would shortly die). Portia’s beach-bunny teen years feel far away as she struggles with an unfaithful husband who has left her feeling boneless and unsure. And though Emery’s greatest childhood fear was that The Law would catch up with their parents for any one of their numerous transgressions (marijuana plants in the backyard; peeing in public; the time Louise quit being a housewife and gave Emery’s care over to eight-year-old Portia), now his only worry is that he won’t be able to create his own family, a newer, better, improved version that will trump the impetuousness and chaos that ruled his childhood home.

But this time together will also bring to the surface sometimes painful, often heartbreaking secrets that will shake the foundations of everything the three siblings know about themselves and assume about their family. Secrets that may, perhaps, change the way they view the past as well as the future.

My Review:
This is the kind of book that has a way of getting under my skin (in a good way) as I'm reading, and even moreso as I ponder it upon completion!  This story gives us the nitty, gritty details of about the most dysfunctional family I could imagine by bringing us into the lives of three siblings.

Buzzy and Louise have raised their three children in a remote area of California and now that they have grown they seemed to have disbursed throughout various sections of the United States.  After Louise has a heart attack the children flock back to the home nest to offer support to both of their parents. While they are visiting we are given glimpses of childhood memories that it seems they may have been keeping locked away for years.

Anna is the oldest daughter and the one that seemed to take charge of the kitchen and housework when her mother decided that raising children wasn't something that she wanted to do any longer.  She could not stand the messy household that they were forced to live in and did not have any respect for her mother whom she suspected was having an affair.  I find it interesting how Anna was the one to become the most promiscuous of the siblings when she was the most concerned about her mother's infidelity.

Portia was the middle child and although Anna was considered the housekeeper, Portia seemed to be the one to keep a close watch over their little brother Emery.  Portia was always quiet and withdrawn and for some reason the family considered her to be mentally slow because of this.  They were all surprised, but not quite as much as Portia, when she was accepted into Berkely.  Although this did help to instill confidence in her, she still spent her life striving for love and acceptance.

Emery was the youngest and always felt out of place.  Since his parents always had marijuana plants growing he just knew that one day his family was going to be ripped apart because they would be thrown in jail.  Emery was always dirty and it seemed that his sisters really didn't want to be near him most of the time.  It took Emery a long time to be honest with himself and his longings so it really took a while for him to develop a healthy dose of self respect.

These parents really confused me as I couldn't imagine deciding to have three children but then still grow marijuana plants in your backyard for your own personal use.  Although Louise was the smoker, Buzzy seemed to take satisfaction in growing a superior crop for her.  Buzzy appeared to be a successful lawyer so finances were not a problem for this family as they muddled their way through life.

I really enjoyed this book as I can personally say that I know people that grew up in similar environments to this one.  I know many ladies that would say this is not even possible and it makes me sad to think that some people cannot even imagine the life that others have survived to get where they are.  This book had me laughing while at other times saddened by what these children had to endure.  So if you are interested in a book that paints an honest picture of what a family life can be with selfish parents then I definitely recommend this book.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This e-book was provided to me from the publisher through the Netgalley program in exchange for an honest review.


Ti said...

So true, many have a hard time imagining a life different from their own. With the "new" homeless, you can't even tell what their personal situation is unless you really pay attention to the clues.

I haven't read this book, but when I read The Glass Castle, I couldn't help but be reminded of the kids (in our very affluent neighborhood) who apparently are living out of cars because their families lost their homes in the economic downturn.

I think books like these serve a purpose and they do make you think.

bermudaonion said...

This book sounds really good to me. I hope to get to it soon.