A review by Terri Kinckner
I was given this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. When Bart gave me the book, he cautioned me that this might not be my kind of book. Honestly? This was exactly the kind of book I needed! From the very first page, this story grabbed my interest and my heart and didn’t let go. In fact, I read this book in one sitting over a weekend.
The story starts out with Jack as a young boy in the 80’s being the lookout for his father on a back road in Texas while his father Billy, relieved himself. Holding a beer and smoking a cigarette, this scene sets the story of Jack’s childhood. Each chapter jumps back and forth through time, the younger Jack enjoying his childhood and normalizing his alcoholic father’s lifestyle. The older Jack is a more self-reflective person, looking back on these times with a mixture of joy and sadness. In high school and college, Jack was on a path to be just like his father, but was saved at a Nirvana concert by Samantha, the woman he would later call his wife and the mother of their wonderful son, Jake.
Jack and Samantha had a wonderful marriage and an incredible little boy. He had a good job, nice house, and everything he could ask for. On a trip to visit his parents, however, his world turned on end. This is truly a story of addiction, love, family, miracles and finally, redemption. I don’t really want to go into detail with what happened that caused this chain of events, but I will say that it was extremely vivid in my mind as I read. Actually, I completely forgot I was reading at all! I was wrapped up in the story and characters as if they were my own family. I laughed, cried, was horrified, and felt the release of decades of hurt and hostility that were always just bubbling under the surface. That last part goes for the book AND my own life!
This book hit really close to home for me. I am the child of an alcoholic and I struggled to become the person I am today. I’ve never been brave enough to open up and outwardly discuss my feelings with that parent. This book made me want to! So many stories centering around addiction have sad endings. This story ends up being more about love and family than anything.
The characters in this book were wonderful! Billy himself was a hilarious harmless sort (for the most part) and Jack’s mother was a strong, caring woman who managed to raise two very well-adjusted children. Jack was an excellent husband, father and employee, and an all-around great guy. His wife, Samantha was the perfect compliment to him… they were such a strong, committed couple! Jack’s sister, Katie was positive and helped center the family when tragedy struck. Jake was a wonderful, smart and happy child. Even Scott, Jack’s best friend, was part of the family. Every time the family said “Team Leonard”,he’d chime in with “And, Scott”, I’d laugh out loud. The support this not so perfect family had for each other was definitely abundant!
I recommend this book to anyone who needs a reason to smile. Whether you already have the perfect life and family, or are struggling and facing hard times, this book will hit you right where it counts and make you love the people around you (no matter how imperfect) just that much more.
I give this book 5 Texas stars out of five!