When her two oldest of four daughters decide to live on the streets, Debra Gwartney has to find a way to take control. Joyce Bean's narration portrays Gwartney as a woman on the edge of unrestrained emotions. Bean appropriately expresses the layers of torment the author faces - her guilt and remorse over her divorce and how it affected her children, her conflict over the foster parents who both run her children's lives and deal with their difficult behavior, and her mix of caring and resentment as the young teens cut themselves, steal, and avoid her love. Bean's tight, strained narration corresponds to the story's tension. Her delivery of the author's candid reflections makes listeners hope for the family's resolution.
Live Through This - as emotionally wrenching and ultimately redemptive as David Sheff's Beautiful Boy - is the story of Gwartney's frantic effort to recover the beautiful, intelligent daughters she cherishes. The harrowing subculture of the American runaway, with its random violence, its horrendously dangerous street drugs, and its patchwork of hidden shelters---none of them interested in a parent's grief---is captured by Gwartney with brilliant intensity. Faced with the unraveling of the family she thought she could hold together through blind love, Gwartney begins the painful---and universal---journey toward recognizing her own flawed motivations as a mother. The triumph of Gwartney's story is its sensitive rendering of how all three, over several years, have dug deep for forgiveness and a return to profound love.