Tag Archives: Alcoholics Anonymous

WHO DID YOU TELL?

I smell him first, or rather the aftershave he used to wear. A ’90s vintage scent – masculine and woody. I spin round, but no one’s there. . .
Then I see him, sprinting toward the sea, the furry flaps of his trapper hat flying in the breeze. . . Simon.

Who Did You Tell?, the second published novel from author, Leslie Kara, returns the reader to the British seaside village of Flinstead-on-Sea. Her first published novel, The Rumor, examined the dangers of malicious gossip.

Who Did You Tell? is the story of a struggling alcoholic recently released from rehab with nowhere to go but to move in with her mother. Mom has let her know that this is it – fail this time and you are truly on your own. Astrid hoped leaving her old life behind, telling no one where she was going, and moving to Flinstead where she is unknown, would provide the base from which to rebuild her life. A name change from Hiliary helps with anonymity.

To her credit, she dutifully, but reluctantly, attends weekly meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. Astrid is not ready to open her sordid story to these strangers. Long years of drugs and booze have left Astrid filled with paranoia and guilt leftover from hazy memories and big gaps of her life lost in long periods of blackouts. She has a very dark secret – she believes she is responsible for the death of her one true love, Simon. Simon and Astrid had a codependent relationship centered on getting high and socially unacceptable methods of funding their needs. After breaking up with Astrid, Simon entered rehab and began a sober life.  A serendipitous meeting with Astrid found Simon falling off the wagon, and shortly after, committing suicide.

In time, still finding it difficult to curb the allure of alcohol to self-medicate, Astrid makes a good friend from AA, finds a new love interest, and begins to believe that she just might be on the road to a better life. Until.  She begins to smell Simon’s uncommon aftershave in strange places and gets that eerie feeling that she is being watched.

“I don’t want to look over my shoulder because that feels like giving in to the fear. . . I force myself to turn round just long enough to see there’s no one there. . .”

She’s scared. . . For a second I think sensed me. She stops dead in her tracks and spins round. . .  [I pretend.] My forefinger curls, then squeezes. The bullet hits it target. . . Not yet. The game’s only just begun.

Who Did You Tell? is a mixed tale. Addiction and its perpetual grip on lives and the importance of friendship and family in helping hold steady against the strong pull of addiction. A mysterious stalking stranger insidiously begins a campaign to destroy Astrid’s new life by first messing mentally with her mind before hoping to end it all with her tragic death. Astrid struggles with questions – What did I do?  How was I found in Flinstead? Who did I tell?

The strongest theme, in my opinion, was Astrid’s battle with her demons. The mysterious stranger was effective at obfuscating the reason for stalking Astrid and was entertaining. Her romance and potential future with Josh wasn’t my favorite part of the book; didn’t feel right and possibly was included as a false flag as the potential stalker. I settled on rating the book at 4 stars because of the example of Astrid’s life as an addict. Enjoyed the book and look forward to any future fiction from this author.

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CORNELIUS SKY : a novel

Author and Novel’s Backstory
One hot summer’s day in 1990, Timothy Brandon sought refuge in the public library. Wandering in the stacks, he discovered the numerous volumes of the New York Times Index.

“I discovered two abstracts concerning family members. The first, from 1937, about my grandfather, contained the startling keyword of suicide. The second, from 1974, about my uncle, offered this highly curious instruction: ‘See JFK, Jr.'” After pulling the microfilm and reading the articles, he remembers thinking, “If I could somehow capture the bleak irony and pathos of these pieces.”

Thirty years later, having obtained an MFA from NYU, he has crafted his debut novel weaving the reference to JFK, Jr.  and suicide into the story.  The novel’s setting is familiar to him as well; home life in the low-income public housing projects of Chelsea in New York City. A generational workplace as doormen at a posh Fifth Avenue apartment building. The sad history of a few ancestors, parking themselves in pubs, attempting to drown life’s sorrows and inequities.

From all these loose threads,  he crafted, the one, the only, Cornelius Sky.

Our narrator begins the story in 1974 with Cornelius, henceforth known as Connie, as he stumbles home in the dead of night in his usual manner; three sheets to the wind. With difficulty he tries to insert his key in the door only to discover the locks changed and his marriage over. Connie leaves with no destination or plan in mind. He wanders the streets, his doorman cap askew, his gait staggering, too stewed to know what to do next.

He is currently employed at a ritzy Fifth Avenue apartment building. This job, now floundering, like the many others over the years. His charm gets him in the door. His custodial duties are masterful. He starts each job deliberately with high standards. It is critical that he that makes him indispensable right away because it won’t be long before he starts his downward spiral – late to work, drunk on the job, slovenly dressed, and at times, nasty and churlish to the residents.

The firing, when it comes this time, is particularly difficult. He has a developed a friendship with the son of a wealthy resident, a Presidential widow. A thirteen-year-old named John. This friendship seen perhaps as a chance to redeem himself for estranging his own children or just two lost souls finding solace together over a cribbage board in the back hallway.

Connie’s tragic story began in his childhood in the low-income Chelsea projects. His father gave up early by committing suicide. His choice to turn on the gas oven and stick his head inside also killed Connie’s baby brother as he slept. His mother moved on to an abusive lover that made Connie’s life hell. The one place he hoped to find peace, church, was marred by a predatory clergyman. Without a responsible adult in his life, he soon learned self-prescribed doses of alcohol keep everything tolerable.

I can’t picture life without it. He tried to feel out in his mind for an image of himself as a person who did not drink, and nothing came. The construct of a character named Connie Sky who lived a sober life eluded him, terrified him down to the ground. . . 

But not all is doom and gloom. The story begins to feel, after a while, like the narrator is Della Reese and we are watching an episode of Touched by an Angel. We see Connie at his worst, sense his potential, and can’t help but beg him to find help. To find the peace that so deep down he wants.

When it seems that he has lost everything including his soul, we sense that “angels” have arrived to steer him back to life and to a future he thought never possible.

Recommended reading.

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