It can be said that our world exists in a state of virtual juxtaposition. On one hand, it is a place of infinite beauty. New wonders and magnificent scenes taking place right before our very eyes with each passing moment. At the same time, life can be riddled with danger and temptations. These perils can obscure our vision and thus obliterate any chance of appreciating what lies right in front of us. Sitting there- just out of reach. Addiction is one such peril which is accompanied by a ponderous cloud. In his novel, Drunks, Love Through a Shattered Glass, author Ken Fry depicts just such a battle. A brutally raw portrayal of living with an implacable addiction and the ruinous consequences which it will bring.
Essentially, the story follows the lives of the main characters, Al Markham and his wife Chrissy. They definitely do not have what anyone would call a “typical” marriage. Al is the publisher at an elite publishing house, and his job can only be described as demanding and intense. While that may be, it does manage to pay very good money and give his wife Chrissy the life of freedom and disregard she craves. The pair exist in a dysfunctional marriage and really only have one thing in common… an overpowering addiction to alcohol. Make no mistake, this is no mild dependence. Indeed, it is a full- blown obsession which controls every aspect of their lives. Predictably, this love for alcohol starts to negatively and dramatically impact Al’s performance at work. This soon leads to a prompt and heartless pink slip for him. Without their major source of income, the hapless couple find everything start to crumble around them. Will they be able to recover and shake off the demon drink and its many pitfalls? Or are their lives about to take a serious turn for the worst. Seeing not only an end to their already broken union… but to virtually everything else they hold dear as well!
This novel is undoubtedly a twisted romance. It explores various relationships in depth and exposes the devastating impact that alcohol has on them. A comparison of Al’s relationship with Chrissy as opposed to Julie pretty much solidifies this point. One is mired in alcoholic abuse, misery and pain, while the other symbolizes the love and freedom which comes with breaking free from the chains of addiction. Impressively, none of this comes across as “preachy” or didactic. Rather, it is put together with brilliantly flowing writing which will have the reader dying to get to the next page and find out what happens next. The tension that Fry creates in his story is palpable!
While the plot of the story is gripping, it is further backed up by a group of dynamic, realistic and believable characters. They are shown at their best and at their worst. Each one of them could be any one of us- and that is what makes their portrayal so powerful. The rapid fall from grace of Al and Chrissy in particular is something which many of us fear. What happens if we suddenly lose our job and means of supporting ourselves? We all secretly fear this, and it resonates deeply.
By now I am sure it is quite obvious that I loved this novel. Beautiful writing which presents a gripping and inspirational story. However, what stands out the most for me is the way in which the author is able to enter the mind of the alcoholic. This is a battle I personally have and will continue to wage the rest of my life. It never goes away and it comes with secret thoughts and impulses with the passing of each day. As I was reading the novel, I was frequently amazed that the author seemed to be reading my mind. The thoughts of Al and Chrissy are not over the top. They are real, and many people live with them daily. As Ken Fry describes in his Prologue, he is not himself an alcoholic. That fact alone makes it abundantly clear that he must have put an extensive amount of research into the writing of this book! I found it to be a very inspirational piece.
5 out of 5 Drunken stars for this one!