On Love, Booze and Other Addictions
Book review by Ernest Barteldes
On her debut novel Sherry and Narcotics (Future Fiction, 239 pages, $ 14.95. Available April 1st ), Brooklyn-based Nina-Marie Gardner tell the story of Mary, a young American-born playwright with serious daddy and addiction issues that finds herself falling into a highly abusive relationship with a poet and playwright in Manchester, England. It is a compelling read that looks into the maladies of being horribly needy and being taken advantage of in consequence of that.
When story begins, we find Mary struggling in London as she tries to make a go of her playwriting career, which seems not to be going anywhere. To make ends meet, she makes a living by editing application letters for foreign students who are looking to apply to Ivy League schools; a graduate of an undisclosed major university herself, she essentially rewrites their pieces to fit what admissions officers are looking for in an applicant. When not editing, she hangs out with a crowd that drinks too much and overindulges on drugs – just what she tried to stay away from after a stint in rehab in the United States.
Over flashbacks, we learn that she recently lost her father, who was a high-powered Washington lawyer, and that she has an uneasy relationship with her mother – which might be the reason behind her being unable to stray from her path of self-destruction. As the narrative progresses, she falls hard for a poet named Jake (no last name) who also drinks too much but who also has a charming personality that causes her to drop everything and move to Manchester to be close to him. From that moment, her life begins to unravel as she spends her days drinking wine and hanging out in pubs with Jake, a man who is comfortably settled into an uneasy living situation. As she finds out more about him, she falls even harder for him even with the various red flags she sees as things progress.
When the reader reaches the end of the book, we find the ending to be sort of a cautionary tale about young love – limitless and unquenchable. The pages seem to fly by, and we feel for Mary, wondering how the hell she got into this mess in the first place.
Sherry and Narcotics is a compelling read. However, readers who prefer uplifting love stories with happy twists (say, a woman saved by her passion) this is probably not for you. Having said that, it must be said that Gardner is a welcome new voice in the literary scene.