Top positive review
And witty, honest, culturally relevant surprise for someone who thought they'd read all the alcoholic memoirs necessary
Reviewed in the United States on February 24, 2016
As recovering alcoholic myself, I've read all the "women alcoholic" memoirs I could get my hands on, but Hepola's voice and and experience is the first I've read that truly mirrors the drinking culture that exists for those of us born in the mid-70s to mid-80s.
"In an age of sex tapes and beaver shots, there was nothing edgy or remotely shocking about a woman like me reporting that, hey, everyone, I fell off my bar stool."
Hepola captures the classic problems alcoholics have always faced--the "gerrymandering of what constitutes an actual 'problem'," the strained relationships, the blacking out--but she does so for a generation of "young, educated, and drunk" women who find power in drinking, who are sexually liberated, who forgo having kids to chase their dreams, who like being in charge of their own pain.
Throughout the book, Hepola wrestles with the troubling sexual interactions she had while drunk. "I spent years wondering if I'd lost my virginity, and if I'd consented..." "Many yesses on Friday nights would have been nos on Saturday morning. My consent battle was in me." "When men are in a blackout, they do things to the world. When women are in a blackout, things are done to them." While I was quick to pinpoint sexual violation as the reason for my own drinking, I appreciated that Heppola explored some of the deeper issues of why people, especially women, drink. And why it's so hard to leave behind.
While Hepola wrestles with why she ended up where she did, she never blames anyone or anything for her circumstances and she found the strength within herself to make a better life. Unlike a lot of alcohol memoirs, Blackout doesn't simply just end at drinking one day and sober the next. Hepola lets readers join in on the complicated first years of sobriety to see how the process of leaving oneself and finding oneself intertwines to build a whole person.
I highly recommend Blackout to anyone who wants to learn about the life of an alcoholic woman (or any addiction) and find hope that recovery is possible--and also to anyone who has struggled with finding themselves, being comfortable in their own bodies, knowing how to balance expectations of potential with reality. Hepola's brutal honesty of her own insecurities, confusion, grandiosity, and vanity left me grateful that I got to spend a little bit of time in her head to learn a few things about myself.