Falling Up: A Memoir of Renewal, by Louise Stanger ISBN 9780996761406
Four out of five stars
A common criticism that I have leveled against autobiographies is that they are just not that interesting. While the author naturally considers their subject matter to be engaging, after all it is their life, it just does not fascinate others. It takes very good writing to turn most lives into interesting stories. To a large extent, that is what happens here.
There are two general tracks to the book, the life of Stanger and her profession. Her father committed suicide when she was young and her family poured on the euphemistic dodges in an attempt to soften the blow. It took a fellow classmate in elementary school to force the fact of the manner of his death on her. As a child, she faced recriminations and other psychological traumas, including substance abuse by family members.
Her college career, marriage, widowhood, remarriage, mentors and life as a mother are a bit atypical, but not unusual. As a college educator with decades of experience, I have encountered a few younger women that were widows going back to college. For years my daughter and I have done handyman work for elderly widows so I have a great deal of experience with their struggles.
The second track is her work in dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. That is far more interesting as Stanger describes her growing into a career that puts her on the side of providing assistance to people with the problems that she had to face when she was young. Alcoholism and drug abuse has always been a problem in American society but in places it is now of epic proportions. One of the most astounding statistics is that life expectancy has flatlined in the United States and one of the primary reasons is a rise in deaths due to drug overdoses.
Both aspects of the story are told rather well, Stanger makes it clear that there is no pill or other “silver bullet” that can be used in the treatment of substance abuse. She describes “the geographics,” where people will relocate before admitting to a problem. People that are in the midst of substance abuse are some of the cleverest and most manipulative people that exist. They are also some of the most resilient people found, a point that therapists must always keep in mind. You must continue to try and try to alter the course of their lifeship.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.