Book Review: THE RESIDUE YEARS and the cycle of addiction

I don’t read a lot of literary fiction, so I tend to pick these stories without knowing exactly what to expect. If I don’t know the author or haven’t heard or read much about the book, then I’m basically just going in blind hoping I find something to connect with.

I just finished listening to The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson on audiobook. I primarily chose this book because it seemed like a perspective on drugs and addiction I had never really been exposed to before.

The Residue Years switches between the points of view of Champ and his mother, Grace. Following Grace’s stint in court-mandated rehab for her crack addiction, she and Champ try to reconnect with each other, with their family, and with the previous life and home they’d lost touch with. Champ, meanwhile, sells crack to support himself and his family, even as Grace tries to recover and find a new path in life.

Champ and Grace appear to want to change their lives, but they keep making poor decisions. As protagonists, you want Champ and Grace to succeed in reclaiming themselves and each other. However, Champ is too self-aware for his own good, convincing the reader that he knows that dealing crack cannot be his end-all-be-all, while continually making choices that pull him deeper into that life. Grace does all the right things on the surface. She gets out of rehab, finds a job, attends NA, finds a new church. She recognizes that she needs to stay away from the toxic people of her past and establish a new life, but she too easily allows herself to be dragged backward.

Jackson does an incredible job of making the reader root for these characters, to hope against all odds that they will break the cycle of crack, and to envision a better future for them. He does all this even as the characters make baffling decisions that just repeat the cycle.

This story is ultimately an intimate portrayal of the vicious cycle of addiction and how it erodes those bonds to family, stability, and love.

I don’t recall what made me buy this book initially, but I’m glad to have read it.

Steve D

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