Zailckas' much-admired autobiography is an electrifying account of her experiences as an alcoholic. If the topic matter sounds all too familiar, readers can rest assured that Zailckas' treatment of her addiction makes for a distinctive and compelling memoir. Having foresworn alcohol after a decade of abuse, she is 24 at the time of the book, and she writes unflinchingly about an adolescence blurred by booze and marred by its attendant catastrophes date rape, depression, suicide attempts. Zailckas suffers from alcohol poisoning while in high school and attends keg parties as an undergraduate at Syracuse University. There, drinking is a part of the daily routine, and alcoholism is sanctioned by the school's system of fraternities and sororities. The difficulties that lie at the heart of the author's dependence peer pressure, loneliness, issues of self-esteem become clear over the course of this frank, courageous narrative. Zailckas also writes openly about the long-term effects of her addiction. Minus the support of alcohol, she has difficulty with adult relationships; sobriety makes any sort of intimacy almost impossible. A fierce yet lyrical writer, Zailckas is wise beyond her years. Her perspectives on why alcohol is accepted socially and how it can subtly infiltrate everyday life are smart and hard-won. This is a wonderfully human story about self-reliance and survival. A reading group guide is available online at JULIE HALE

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