10 January 2009

4. Sweet Fire

Sweet Fire by Pat MacEnulty
I did not know what to expect when I picked up this book. It is another of the used book store blind purchases based on something attracting me from the cover.
Before I begin writing about the book, I want to make a few observations.
1. Pat MacEnulty is female. I did not know that until after I read the book. I wondered how many other books I have read were written by females. I was surprised to discover it was few and far between. I wonder why that is.
2. In the book the protagonist (our heroine as comapred to heroin, LOL) reads "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad, twice. It mentioned some things about that book that sounded an awful lot like "Apocalypse Now", the movie. I did an Internet search and discovered that the novella "Heart of Darkness" was indeed adapted to make one of my favorite movies. I added "Heart of Darkness" to the reading list.
3. I was trying to figure out why an author would write about this subject for their first novel. I think I may have found the answer...
4. I checked out Pat MacEnulty after reading the book and found this bio on her publishers website:
"Pat MacEnulty is the author of three novels and a book of short stories. She grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and, after a period of drug addiction and imprisonment began writing. She now runs writing and drama workshops for prisoners and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina."
So, The author and Trish, the main character, have a lot in common. Maybe it is based on the authors own experiences. I do not know the answer to that, but it seems to be quite the coincidence.
Then I found this book description on the author's own site:
"This is Pat’s first novel, based loosely on experiences she had as a young woman with a serious drug problem."
Also, the author lives in my home town. :-)
Anyway...on to the book.
The book is a story about a teenage heroin addict and the events of her life. People around her end up dead or imprisoned. All the relationships in her life are destructive and fall apart. There is a slow and consistent escalation of problems and "scams" pulled.
Escalation scenarios: Selling placebos to strangers, ripping off family, ripping off friends, sex (lots of using sex to get the drugs), getting busted while breaking into pharmacies to steal drugs, stealing drugs from known violent bikers running a crystal meth-lab (not smart).
The writing seemed like it was a bit of a documentary. Descriptive documentary, but still kind of planned out in a strict chronological order with occasional flashbacks. "We went here, we did this, then we went here and we did this." It was getting to be like a broken record. Let's see, the drug addict hooks up with some guy, they feel sick, they try to find drugs, they get drugs, they use drugs, they sleep. OK, next chapter. The drug addict hooks up with some guy, they feel sick, they try to find drugs, they get drugs, they use drugs, they sleep. Get it? Over and over for half the book. I almost stopped reading it, but I pressed on thinking that there is no way the entire book can be like that. (It wasn't)
Then I realised something. What is a drug addict's life like? Probably exactly like what was being written. Did anything else matter? Family were afterthoughts and guilt causing burdens, just as should be expected. Friend's mattered immensely, when they were able to supply something needed, otherwise they were tossed aside. Yes, that too would be true. Lot's of people tend to die or end up in prison and the character blames it on bad luck, snitches, and cops. Yep, that too would fit. Especially the part about denying the lifestyle is causing a problem.
After realising that this was probably a little more true to life it explained why it felt like a bit of a documentary.
Oh, I almost forgot. It seemed important that the writer tell us the color of all kinds of objects. I noticed it often enough that it annoyed me. It seemed like some other description would have worked rather than once again telling me what color something was. Was it just amateurish (it is a first novel)? Was it planned to make me feel like the character's were simplistic? I have no idea, but it bugged me a little.
I wouldn't recommend anyone goes out of their way to find this book, but if you happen to see it at a yard sale or something go ahead and grab it for a buck. It would be OK to read when you are looking for something to occupy time during a trip. Then you can just leave it wherever you finish it or give it to a fellow traveler with nothing better to do. I say it would be a good traveling book because it can be interrupted mid-sentence, mid-paragraph, mid-page, and it is OK. Go ahead, board the plane, pick it up again in an hour when you are in the air. Some books I could never do that with. I would be reading them while walking down the gateway.
C - It's OK. Nothing awesome, but it did not suck. It became a bit more interesting after reading the author's bio and knowing the story was loosely based in fact. It makes me wonder how loosely.

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