Eve Tushnet is a writer that I have been wanting to read more from. I have read a number of blog posts and articles by her. In addition to this novel, she has a memoir that I have been wanting to read for a while. Several authors that I ‘know’ have recommended the novel. And because it was recommended as funny, and only $3.99, I picked it up.
I am not sure that funny is how I would describe it. Alcoholism and recovery are not inherently funny subjects, at least to me. I did a college internship with a drug and alcohol rehab program (primarily focused on recently homeless.) While I only worked as a counselor for a few months with the internship, I volunteered there for years and lived on site in exchange for working as night security for a couple years before I was married in grad school.
Amends presents a fairly realistic view of addiction and recovery. The reality TV program is being put together by an addict herself. The ‘talent’ is chosen for diversity and interest. So there is a gay man, a teen hockey star, a homeless Christian African immigrant, well known playwright, a woman who identifies as a wolf, etc.
These are all brilliant characters. Their conversations are occasionally over the head of the TV audience. The reality TV angle, similar to Christopher Beha’s Arts and Entertainment and Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, both irritated me and provided some needed context to the novel. I really do not like most reality tv. The exploitive nature of it, especially with something like addiction, is acknowledged by the book but also still wrapped up in the novel.
Throughout the novel I wondered if Tushnet has had experience with addiction (either personally or with someone around her). I have not read her memoir enough to know. The struggle for sobriety is well written and even if fictionalized for humor at times, it is real. It wasn’t until I was writing up this review that I realized that the addiction subject might have been partially because Tushnet is a celibate gay Catholic author. Many Christians have reflected on addiction as one means of explaining how they think about a Christian view of homosexuality. I think the view is far less prevalent than it was in the 1990s and 2000s, but I am also sure that Tushnet has had lots of exposure to it.
In the end I am glad I read Amends, but I did not love it. I can see the skill of Tushnet’s writing and I want to read her memoir soon. But addiction is such a hard subject. Tushnet does not try to gloss over that difficulty. Not all of the characters end up doing well. There is real redemption and grace. Christian faith is present, but loosely held. But there is also sadness and tragedy.