02 July 2008

Beautiful Boy and Tweak

Beautiful Boy is David Sheff's memoir of living with a drug addicted son. He tells of first discovering Nic's addiction, while still in his teens, and of the heart-break of various rehabs and set-backs. Throughout the book, David tries to be quite open and honest, admitting where he could be at fault for Nic's addiction (upbringing, family history, the like), agonizing over what he could have done differently and in the end trying to give hope to other families that might be experience the same.

There were times that this well written, quick read was a painful experience. David's expression of Nic's addiction and it's effects on his (David's) life--the strain it put on his marriage, his attempts to protect his two younger children from Nic, the range of emotions that came with Nic breaking into their home--was so absorbing that I read half way through in one sitting. Then, I was so emotionally spent, I had to put the book down for a few days. I felt that I was sharing some of the anguish he felt, as he worried over Nic, and when I finished reading Beautiful Boy, I felt a spark of hope. It is a book I am certainly glad I have read.

But, I still hesitated to pick up Nic's book, Tweak. I waited several weeks, giving myself time to let some of David's personal feelings about Nick not be so fresh. I wanted to give Nic's book as un-opinionated a reading as I could, while still comparing his version of events to his father's.

Tweak was not just open and honest, it was painfully frank. Nic does not hide the fact that he loved doing the various drugs, that they felt good, that he liked who he was on drugs--maybe not what he did to others, but that concern only came when clean. He craved that feeling, and time and again, even after a year or more of being clean, he would give in with really no fight at all. He struggled to find himself, outside of drugs, but kept feeling like maybe there wasn't a "him" without drugs.

Tweak pulled me in emotionally in a way that Beautiful Boy did not, probably due to Nic's conversational tone of writing--certainly not polished, like David's, but very, very personal. I became so emotionally involved that, at what would be his final relapse, I was so angry at Nic, I had to put the book down. I had to step away emotionally and remind myself that I was truly NOT involved in this young man's life and that--I had read his father's side--it WAS going to eventually turn out all right. Where I felt sympathy for David with Beautiful Boy, through reading Tweak, I was family, I was the betrayed. Tweak is that powerful of a book; it can pull you in that strongly and as such is a book most certainly worth reading. (But I do recommend reading Beautiful Boy first.)

Both were read for both the Nonfiction Challenge and for my Recommended Reads list for the 888 challenge. I also included them in the title portion of my A-Z Reading Challenge. I wonder, is that over using them, challenge-wise?



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