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Review: Drinking Closer to Home

October 20, 2011

When Louise has a heart attack her children, Anna, Portia, and Emery, return home for a rare visit.  While they visit and watch over their mother, they reminisce about their unusual childhood.  Raised by selfish, irresponsible parents, all three children are emotionally scarred by their upbringing.  Despite all of that, they all feel an odd sense of loyalty to their parents and each other.

In Drinking Closer to Home, author Jessica Anya Blau introduces readers to the Steins – a family that could be the poster child for dysfunction.  Every member of this family has some issue – infidelity, selfishness, lack of self-esteem – that was caused by their zany upbringing.  At first I was very frustrated with the mother, Louise, because of her apparent disregard for everyone around her, but then her parents came into the story and I suddenly had a little bit of understanding for her.

When Louise was young, her parents left her in their car while they went into a bar to drink.  After quite a few drinks, they decided to check into one of the rooms upstairs, since they were far from home, forgetting about Louise and leaving her in the car overnight.  It was cold and she almost froze to death.  When she survived the ordeal, her parents decided they should always go “drinking closer to home,” to avoid future calamities, and it became a family creed of sorts.

I liked this book a lot, but don’t think I quite loved it.  It almost felt like watching a train wreck – I was put off by what I saw, yet I couldn’t divert my eyes.  I found the book to be compelling and funny, but also rather sad and disheartening.  I found the characters to be somewhat over the top, yet oddly believable, and wanted to tell almost every one of them to get over themselves.

The Steins seem to make some progress by the end of the book, but don’t look for things to be tied up in a neat little bow.

Review copy provided by Harper Collins. I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
43 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2011 6:43 am

    Ah, the trainwreck. I love your review. I do want to read this; I just haven’t gotten to it, yet.

  2. October 20, 2011 6:43 am

    I really enjoyed this one and thought it was hilarious. Having said that, I do understand why it wouldn’t resonate with every reader.

  3. October 20, 2011 6:58 am

    OMG! Leaving a child in a car all night whilst out drinking. That is criminal. What a family. I would have to read this one.

  4. October 20, 2011 7:05 am

    I like books about dysfunction families, so maybe I’ll look for this one at some point. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kathy.

  5. October 20, 2011 7:09 am

    For various reasons I’m not sure this one is for me but I’m glad you liked it.

  6. October 20, 2011 7:10 am

    I started reading this book, but didn’t finish it. I really didn’t like the characters and wasn’t in the mood for another dsyfunctional family drama- maybe I’ll give it a shot another day.

  7. October 20, 2011 7:19 am

    I’m glad you stuck with it. I thought it was pretty funny, but I can totally understand how you’d want to shake some characters.

  8. October 20, 2011 7:52 am

    I can understand why you had these types of feelings for this book. It makes me really mad to read a book where parents are being irresponsible with their kids, and the kids are suffering for it. It sounds like this one might annoy me too much to read it, but I do have to admit to being very curious about the specifics after reading your review!

  9. October 20, 2011 7:54 am

    Sounds like about 20% of the people that live down here in Florida if you watch the news. If you catch me in a carefree mood, I can handle train wrecks. I just finished a train wreck book and can only handle them in small doses.

  10. October 20, 2011 8:47 am

    I don’t think this is a book for me. I can take some family dysfunction but this sounds a bit over the top for me.

  11. October 20, 2011 9:21 am

    Watching a train wreck? That sentence says allot. Thanks for your honest review 🙂

  12. October 20, 2011 11:24 am

    I pretty much hate most books about dysfunctional families, unless there is a lot of humor in it. Train wrecks grab your attention, but they’re still not so fun!

  13. October 20, 2011 11:28 am

    I did really like this one and thought it was hilarious, though I can understand where you’re coming from. This family is a train wreck, just a kind of funny one.

  14. October 20, 2011 11:58 am

    This book sounds disturbing and sad but it sounds like there are funny parts, too. I tend to like books about dysfunctional characters and families and enjoy black humor so I think this is a book I might like to read. I’m glad the author doesn’t have everything solved and prettied up by the end since I think it’s difficult for people who’ve been dysfunctional for a long time and/or raised in a dysfunctional home to shake it off completely.

    Thank you for a terrific review, Kathy!

  15. October 20, 2011 12:55 pm

    A great review, I don’t think it’s my kind of book either, thanks! for sharing.

  16. October 20, 2011 12:57 pm

    I’m not sure if this one is for me. It sounds interesting, but i’ll probably need to be in the mood for it.

  17. October 20, 2011 1:20 pm

    Sometimes these types of books can be really stressful to read. Sounds like it was pretty good though.

  18. October 20, 2011 1:22 pm

    Well, this certainly is a great example of the family cycle repeating itself, huh? What ridiculous parents to leave their child in a car, forget all about her while they check into a room, and then make it their family mantra to fix future issues by just drinking at home. Not sure if this one is for me.

  19. October 20, 2011 2:01 pm

    I would probably like this book. I tend to enjoy dysfunction when it’s not me experiencing it.

  20. October 20, 2011 2:17 pm

    i’m thinking I too might like this one, thanks for your review.

  21. October 20, 2011 2:24 pm

    I had heard this book was hilarious, but I could see where despite that it is still a little sad. I think I have a copy of this one (isn’t it sad when we *think* but aren’t sure if we have it, lol). I think I’ll still give it a go but I’ll keep in mind what you said about the ending.

  22. October 20, 2011 3:43 pm

    I generally enjoy dysfunctional family books, but this one sounds like a bit too much.

  23. October 20, 2011 4:02 pm

    Oooh…I kind of love a train wreck, too…nice review, Kathy…

  24. October 20, 2011 4:24 pm

    What the?! What a family! I think this would just make me so sad

  25. October 20, 2011 4:33 pm

    Oh, this one sounds like one I should add to my list! I kind of like train wrecks…LOL

    Probably because I worked at a “train wreck” kind of job for three decades. Some people will do anything to forget a job like that, but I seem to be drawn to dysfunction.

    Thanks for sharing.

  26. DAVID permalink
    October 20, 2011 5:07 pm

    I read this book and LOVED it. They are dysfunctional, but they are hilarious and smart and interesting people. As strange as the family is, they’re also FUN. And as sad as their story is, it was FUNNY. Seriously, I was laughing aloud all the way through. AND, by the way, if you read the interview in the back you’ll see that it’s pretty much a true story. Interesting, and nice to know that they all survived everything they went through.

  27. October 20, 2011 7:18 pm

    well, since my parents owned a bar and I spent way too much time there as a child, this book seems to speak to me. lol

  28. October 20, 2011 7:37 pm

    This sounds like one of those stories that you probably don’t really want to hear about as it is too upsetting. I imagine that, even though this is fiction, it probably isn’t too far from the truth of many people’s lives.

  29. October 20, 2011 7:51 pm

    I felt pretty much the same way when I read this one earlier in the year.

  30. Rachel Green permalink
    October 20, 2011 8:12 pm

    I loved this book. I don’t know if it was because I came from a crazy family myself and I can relate or because it was just plain funny. Jessica Blau is actually a very funny person. If you ever go to the “nervous breakdown” website, you will see short stories by her that will crack you up. Plus, she is gorgeous and down to earth.

  31. Rachel Green permalink
    October 20, 2011 8:14 pm

    Oh…. i forgot to say – you MUST READ THIS BOOK!

  32. October 20, 2011 10:15 pm

    This sounds pretty good – definitely one to put on the TBR list.

  33. October 21, 2011 8:05 am

    Sounds like a train wreck with a roller coaster of emotions. For some reason, I’m drawn to books about dysfunctional families, so I’ll keep this one in mind.

  34. October 21, 2011 8:55 am

    I found that I really liked this book a lot Kathy and was starting to think I was a bit disturbed for liking it so much! A train wreck is a great description of it!

  35. October 21, 2011 9:34 am

    I like the title of this book!

  36. October 21, 2011 10:22 am

    I love books that depict dysfunctional families. This sounds like one I would like.

  37. October 21, 2011 10:22 am

    Great post! Loved the title of the book, because it grabs your attention straightaway. And after reading your post – WOW! Definitely something I want to read. Will definitely be kindling this one.

  38. October 21, 2011 10:54 am

    Like you, I found this book to be disheartening but fascinating . . . though I finished, it was with a heavy heart. Everyone needed/deserved a good slap.

  39. October 21, 2011 5:02 pm

    I think I would enjoy a memoir like this (The Glass Castle) better than a novel. Train wrecks are hard to look away from, but more difficult to appreciate.

  40. October 23, 2011 7:35 am

    There is something about trainwrecks that always draw me in too, so I think I would enjoy this totally dysfunctional family.

  41. October 23, 2011 2:43 pm

    This does sound like a trainwreck – and it is probably because of that, that makes me want to read it as well!

  42. October 29, 2011 8:03 pm

    So many commentator’s thought this was hilarious. Hmmm…interesting!

  43. November 2, 2011 12:56 pm

    i enjoyed this book. coming from a dysfunctionally normal family I could identify somewhat.

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