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Monday, September 24, 2007

"Remarkable Novel" About Drug Addiction by Down Under Author

Sleep before Evening
By Magdalena Ball
BeWrite Books
2007, ISBN 978-1-904492-96-
286 pages

Reviewed by Bob Williams

Sleep Before Evening is a first novel by Magdalena Ball, author of The Art of Assessment and a collection of poetry, Quark Soup. She is also creator and editor of the Web’s premier literary site, The Compulsive Reader.

Mari and her mother Lily form the nucleus of the novel. Mari is a brilliant, but limited, high school student. She has a scholarship to NYU and is an accomplished pianist. Her father faded away from his family early in her life and she has found a substitute in her grandfather, Eric.

Her mother, Lily, has remarried. She is an artist, subject to mood swings that are exhausting to Russ, her husband, and to Mari. Lily in fact drives Russ away by the jealousy that torments her.

Eric has a stroke that is severe enough to leave him unconscious and without brain activity. His doctor recommends the removal of life support. Mari is opposed to this and insists at least that she be made part of the decision respecting her grandfather. Lily and Russ agree to this, but decide without her and Eric is gone before Mari knows what has happened.

In an already difficult home Mari now experiences the extremes of alienation from her mother. Accustomed to visit the city at her pleasure, Mari begins to visit it more frequently. She meets Miles, a young street musician and, cast off and vulnerable, begins a relationship with him. A large part of the book becomes concerned with sex and drugs and – well, not rock and roll exactly – blues.

Ball is very good at showing the shabby musicians that alternate between hopes and disappointments. Miles, the harmonica player, and Cath, the singer, and the other band members lead lives of noisy desperation with a heavy dependence on drugs. In this environment Mari becomes addicted. The needs of her addiction take her from one life-blighting experience to another and she deliberately overdoses as she sits in the rain, abandoned by everyone, under some bushes in a park.

She is found. Doctors save her life and she enters a rehab unit. Reunited with her mother, who draws upon an unsuspected source of maturity, Mari lives through the rigors of rehab. Home once more, she finds that there are still many unresolved problems between her and Lily.

This is a remarkable novel, not one detail of which rings false. The setting is New York City and one of its suburbs and the time is the Reagan years. Ball has achieved the remarkable in recovering this particular time past and the drive of the narrative makes this a compelling and an exciting book.

About the reviewer: Bob Williams has been collecting books all his life, and has done freelance writing, mostly on classical music. His principal interests are James Joyce, Jane Austen and Homer. His writings, two books and a number of short articles on Joyce, can be accessed at:


Frances Lynn said...

I'll read this. But is there a typo in the title? Isn't Addition supposed to be Addiction?

Frances Lynn

Frances Lynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greeneyedwriter said...

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