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Publisher's Summary

"An honest and important book... Vivid writing and required reading." (Stephen King)

"A Tolstoyan study of the human condition." (Andrew Solomon)

One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2018: Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Elle, Newsday, The Millions, Huffington Post, Nylon, Bustle, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Bitch, The Rumpus, Buzzfeed, Boston Globe, The Week

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Empathy Exams, a transformative work showing that sometimes the recovery is more gripping than the addiction

With its deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and reportage, The Recovering turns our understanding of the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself. Leslie Jamison deftly excavates the stories we tell about addiction - both her own and others' - and examines what we want these stories to do and what happens when they fail us. All the while, she offers a fascinating look at the larger history of the recovery movement and at the complicated bearing that race and class have on our understanding of who is criminal and who is ill.

At the heart of the book is Jamison's ongoing conversation with literary and artistic geniuses whose lives and works were shaped by alcoholism and substance dependence, including John Berryman, Jean Rhys, Billie Holiday, Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson, and David Foster Wallace as well as brilliant lesser-known figures such as George Cain, lost to obscurity but newly illuminated here. Through its unvarnished relation of Jamison's own ordeals, The Recovering also becomes a book about a different kind of dependency: the way our desires can make us all, as she puts it, "broken spigots of need". It's about the particular loneliness of the human experience - the craving for love that both devours us and shapes who we are.

For her striking language and piercing observations, Jamison has been compared to such iconic writers as Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, yet her utterly singular voice also offers something new. With enormous empathy and wisdom, Jamison has given us nothing less than the story of addiction and recovery in America writ large, a definitive and revelatory account that will resonate for years to come.

©2018 Leslie Jamison (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Leslie Jamison writes about the highs of dependency and also about the highs of recovery. Her prose is so sharp and evocative that the reader feels the thrilling trickle of alcohol down the back of the throat, and breathes the struggle for health and freedom. Jamison demonstrates great wit, penetrating intellect, and an enormous heart. This strangely exhilarating book is about recovery, but it is more resonantly a book about desire, consciousness, kindness, self-control, and love - and hence a Tolstoyan study of the human condition." (Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of Far From the Tree and The Noonday Demon)

"Leslie Jamison has written a profound exploration into how empathy deepens us, yet how we unwittingly sabotage our own capacities for it. We care because we are porous, she says. Pain is at once actual and constructed, feelings are made based on how you speak them. This riveting book will make you a better writer, a better human." (Mary Karr, author of Lit and The Liars' Club)

"Jamison's questing immersion in intoxication and sobriety is exceptional in its vivid, courageous, hypnotic telling; brilliant in its subtlety of perception, interpretation, and compassion; and capacious in its scholarship, scale, concern, and mission." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Strong writing

Vocal fryyyyyyy- a voice actor would have been better.
She really is a wonderful writer, and Her story is moving, but the themes seem to be repeated one or two too many times. By the end I was longing for it to just end already.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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I Like Drunk-A-Logs Too

I like drunk-a-logs too. The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath, is far more than just Leslie Jamison’s 80 proof telling of adventures and misadventures. Her writing, especially early on, sings with a flourish reminiscent of an Irish pub. She takes the reader to that magical place, known well to alcoholics, where the warmth of euphoria melts away all awkwardness and self-conscious doubt and makes each experience, each story, a brilliant shining well-told jewel. However, she does not shy away from the cold unyielding degradation and humiliation that so often follow in alcohol’s wake.

Woven into her tale of becoming a writer and an alcoholic, are the stories of others who proceeded her on this path of dual vocation. John Berryman, Charles Jackson, Raymond Carver and Dennis Johnson are but a few of the writers Jamison uses to contrast her own journey and mark the history of writing’s long partnership with the intoxicating muse.

For many, the turn towards the end of drinking begins with the self-bartering and attempts to prove that no problem exists. I’ll only drink wine or beer, I won’t drink before or after some imaginary signpost. Then the investigation for evidence to prove no that there is no collusion between the drinker and liquor. Jamison’s writing changes to match this aspect of the coming darkness of dependence.

Hesitancy, fear, the premonition that some of the things and people most important to us might fall away, are all present as Jamison writes about her early recovery, relapse, and return to sobriety. I especially enjoyed, as it reminded me of my own early days in recovery, the slow trembling into the unknown of sobriety and serenity. There is often new bravado created by a few weeks without a drink that leads one to, like a child confident they can pour their own milk, make a complete mess of things.

Jamison’s honest description of her “what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now,” is masterfully used to shine the light on the experiences of so many who have battled addiction, especially writers, and stands as one more lighthouse for those still suffering addicts and alcoholics. We can never have too many because even those of us who have stayed clean and sober, a day at a time need them no less than those seeking their first breath of freedom from addiction’s suffocation.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Really good.

Not "just another addiction memoir." A deftly blended combo of autobiography, literary discussion, interviews, and research, all touching on addiction through the eyes of the author. Most importantly, splendidly written with thoughtful insight, particularly for a relatively young writer.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Well researched and written. A standout memoir

Yes this is a drunkalogue and for that reason I thought twice before listening but it's terrific. It is a look into addiction and its relationship to creativity. Several artists are profiled including many writers and if you are interested in the cult of boozing writers this is for you. There is also fascinating information about Bill W and the history of AA. Jamison knows addiction but more important to this book as an experience, she knows how to write about it beautifully. If you are not an addict you will learn what it feels like to be one. If you are an addict you will recognize yourself. Either way it is absorbing and ultimately offers hope.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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This is a must read

I enjoyed the way Jamison intertwined her own struggle with alcohol addiction with a narrative about how other famous artists, mainly authors, struggled, and either overcame or succumbed to that addiction. The candor in which she tells the story is very raw and relatable. I highly recommend this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I've never heard my story told more fully

While Leslie Jamison and I have slightly different substance preferences and experiences in recovery itself I have never heard another writer speak so clearly about the role of drugs and alcohol in the writing realm. It is easy to identify with any alcoholic or addict for me but Leslie truly touched aspects of my soul I have not heard anyone else express before.

the story is great and message is simple yet necessary. I am interested in more along these lines with less focus on AA but understand that's not Leslie's recovery story to tell. At times I had trouble paying attention while listening due to Leslie's calm voice but the story helped to pull me right back in.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Written like a novel

the book had some very helpful information and fulfilled a lot of what I wanted to "get" from the book. However, the author seemed to try too hard. Honing her writing skills rather than getting to the point. There were times she would hit on something that merited a pause and a ponder, however, before you knew it, there was more "clever writing".

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Waaaaaaayyyyyy Too Long

This book was way too long and detailed in its narrative. I am an alcoholic in recovery and could not wait for it to end. The author did her doctoral thesis on writers and alcoholism and then used all of her research, combined with personal experience, to write the book. It was laborious to get through, and her voice is nasal. She is a privileged woman with very little in common with ordinary people. You will most likely be sorry you purchased this book.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Vocal fry makes for a difficult listen

What didn’t you like about Author’s performance?

The author has a nice voice overall, but her vocal fry inflections make her very difficult to listen to.

Any additional comments?

I like the story and writing enough to buy a hard copy and read the book for myself. But I just can't listen to it because of the author/narrators annoying vocal fry.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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annoyingly familiar

struggling to even get started. Way too many adjectives, way too much whining. I'm looking for a book with substance

6 of 8 people found this review helpful