How to Grow An Addict is a startlingly personal, beautifully insightful account of a young woman’s journey from childhood to young adult, fighting a crippling dependence on drugs, alcohol and sex.
Author J.A. Wright weaves a seamless and beautifully written account of Randall Grange’s life, dominated and terrorized by an abusive, uncaring father; bullied by an older brother she idolized; and benignly tolerated by a largely indifferent mother. None of them realize there is a sensitive, eager-to-please little girl hovering in the shadows, pining for just a little positive attention.
It’s no wonder she chews her nails until they bleed.
In one particularly haunting passage, Randall recalls watching her parents sleep: “I was five or six then, and would often sneak into my parent’s bedroom late at night because I liked to listen to my father snore. It had a whistle sound to it, like a train in the distance.”
After an idyllic summer living with her Uncle Hank and Aunt Flo, whom she adores for their normalcy and stability, Hank is found dead in their swimming pool. Predictably, Randall thinks it’s her fault. In an agitated state, she dives into the water, alone. “I tried to stay under until I went to wherever Uncle Hank had gone, but I couldn’t do it.”
Randall finally achieves a positive relationship with her mother later in the book — but only after her father dies of an apparent stroke. Still, she can’t seem to avoid blaming herself for his death as well, arguing that she had caused his blood pressure to be too high.
Randall graduates high school, but, after a series of failed jobs because she’s stoned all the time, she hooks up with Nick — a much older married man who owns a pharmacy. It’s an ideal if dysfunctional arrangement — he gets rough sex whenever he wants it at his rented condo, and she gets all the drugs she wants.
She knows the end is near when she winds up in the hospital one night after being sexually assaulted in a moving car. She thought she’d just step out of the vehicle as it rolled along. Two black eyes and twelve stitches teach her otherwise. She’s committed involuntarily to a rehab facility and finally the healing begins.
You’ll find yourself smiling and then crying with this achingly vulnerable young woman as she fights her way back from a life which, looking back on it, is both predictable and utterly sad. But you’ll never give up on her, and, in the end, you’ll be very glad you stayed around to fully experience the satisfying ending.
Five stars to this brilliant breakout novel, and congratulations to the author for the impeccable writing, editing and pacing. It should be made into a major motion picture.
Great job, and I look forward to more fine work by this gifted writer.
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