book reviews, religion

A review of Sex Cult Nun, by Faith Jones…

Happy Saturday, everybody! I woke up early this morning, determined to finally finish my latest reading project. It’s not that the book I just finished, Sex Cult Nun (2021), by Faith Jones, wasn’t interesting. It definitely was. I just find it hard to read as fast as I used to. I tend to read when I’m lying in bed, and I drift off to sleep. I definitely need naps more than I used to. It’s probably because Bill wakes me up at 5:00am, most mornings.

I think I discovered Sex Cult Nun when I saw it recommended in the Duggar Family News group. I am fascinated by books about religious cults, so when someone recommends a new one– especially one that is highly regarded– I usually take notice. However, when I realized that Faith Jones was raised in The Family, which used to be known as the Children of God, and is now known as The Family International, I almost didn’t read the book. I’ve now read several books about the Children of God cult, and I always find it difficult to get through them because books about that particular cult are often rife with stories of child sexual abuse. I don’t enjoy reading about children being sexually violated.

As of this morning, I have already reviewed three other books about the Children of God/ The Family. Sex Cult Nun is number four. And although I do find The Family disturbing to read about, there are some aspects of that particular religious group that really are interesting. I’m glad that I did finish Faith Jones’ story, because ultimately, it ends with triumph. Also, although Jones endured a lot of abuse on all levels, her book doesn’t include graphic stories about children being horrifically abused. Make no mistake– Jones was abused and severely neglected when she was growing up, and she does share stories about that abuse. But she manages to share her story without causing the shock and horror I’ve encountered in other books about this particular cult.

Background about David Berg and his cult

Faith Jones comes from a long line of evangelists and proselytizers, which she details in the first chapter of Sex Cult Nun. But the most famous/infamous of her ancestors is her paternal grandfather, David Brandt Berg, founder of the Children of God. Jones explains that Berg’s religious convictions were cemented, in part, because he believed that he had experienced a miracle. Berg was drafted into the Army in 1941, when he was 22 years old. Berg’s mother, Virginia, was a famous preacher who had been miraculously healed, due to her religious convictions. She was a very charismatic traveling evangelist who held tent revivals. Virginia had three children, but only her son, David, was interested in pursuing a life in the ministry. She took him with her on her travels as her assistant and driver.

But then Berg was summoned to military service. Although he could have gotten out of being drafted because he was pursuing a life in the ministry, he decided not to try to get out of military service. He had gotten tired of working with his mother and craved adventure. But then when he was in boot camp, he contracted double pneumonia, and was not expected to recover. Berg prayed to God, promising that if was healed, he would devote his life to God’s service. And, just like that, he was “miraculously healed”, just like his mother was. Berg was medically discharged from the Army, and he went back to work with his mother. However, Berg was not happy with his modest role as his mother’s assistant. He wanted to preach, too. He would have to wait awhile before that would happen.

While he was working with his mother, David met a pretty brunette woman named Jane Miller. She was a devout Baptist from Kentucky who had moved to California. Jane worked as a secretary at The Little Church of Sherman Oaks. David and Jane eloped in 1944, and the couple had four children, including Faith Jones’s father, Jonathan “Hosea” Emmanuel. Berg became ordained as a minister of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He began to preach about integration and sharing one’s wealth with the less fortunate. Jones writes that her grandfather was formulating his ideas about “Christian communism”, which is essentially what his cult, the Children of God, would become while he was still living. Berg was unhappy with his lot in life, and engaged in a number of “antics” that would infuriate local religious leaders, who would call law enforcement. The situation got so bad that Berg decided to go on the road. Faith Jones’s father was in the eighth grade at the time. He was pulled out of school, and that was the end of Hosea’s formal education.

In 1968, David Brandt Berg, finally started a religious movement in California. The group originally consisted of “hippie types”, young people and troubled teenagers– drifters attracted to the counterculture movements of the that era. He originally called his cult “Teens for Christ”, but later changed the name to Children of God.

David Berg was charismatic and enigmatic, and he brought together young, attractive, and talented people and convinced them that his brand of evangelical Christianity was the right way to live. In reality, the Children of God was historically a group with extremely abusive and misogynistic teachings. Young people were sent all over the world to beg on the street, sell religious reading materials, and “flirty fish” new converts, who would live in poverty in diverse locations. The children raised in that cult, at least when Berg was still living, were horrifically abused on all levels. Faith Jones, one of David Berg’s many grandchildren, was no exception.

Faith Jones never met her paternal grandfather, who went into hiding in 1971. David Berg divorced Jane Miller (known as Mother Eve) in 1970 and that same year, he married a cult follower named Karen Zerby, who had worked as his secretary. Karen Zerby now leads The Family, as the Children of God cult is now called. She is known as “Mother Maria”.

Karen had a son named Ricky Rodriguez in 1975, while she was living in Tenerife, Spain. Ricky was fathered by a “flirty fish”– a man Karen had been trying to lure into the cult by having sex with him. David Berg “adopted” Ricky, whose childhood was recorded in a book called The Story of Davidito. The book was supposed to be a guide to cult followers on how to raise their children. However, the book strongly encouraged child sexual abuse, which Karen Zerby allegedly participated in against her son.

Ricky Rodriguez endured horrific abuse, and in 2005, invited his mother and his former nanny to lunch. After lunch, he murdered his nanny by stabbing her to death. He had meant to murder his mother, too, but she hadn’t accepted his invitation to lunch. Rodriguez then committed suicide. It’s my understanding that a lot of the really abusive practices that took place while Berg was still alive no longer happen. “Flirty fishing”– using sex to lure new converts– went out in the 1980s, supposedly due to the AIDS epidemic.

Who is Faith Jones?

Jones was born to David Berg’s son, Hosea, around 1977. At the time of Faith’s birth, Hosea had two wives, Ruthie and Esther. Ruthie is Faith’s mother. Like many people who were born into the Children of God cult, Faith wasn’t always raised with her family of origin. She spent her growing up years living in different religious communes around the world, mostly in Asia. The communes, which were called “homes”, were led by shepherds– usually married couples– who kept the members accountable to the cult’s teachings and doled out punishments for infractions of the rules. Jones mostly grew up in Macau and Hong Kong, but she also spent time in Taiwan, mainland China, Thailand, and Russia.

Children were “homeschooled”. They were not allowed to read any books that weren’t approved by the cult’s leadership. They were forced to read “Mo Letters”– these were letters David Berg, who had taken to calling himself “Moses David” (hence the “Mo”), wrote to his followers. When members were punished, they were often required to read and reread the Mo Letters, over and over again, even if they had already memorized them. Jones did get a couple of tastes of formal education, and that ignited a thirst for knowledge within her. But children were severely punished for seeking information, reading unapproved books, or breaking other rules, such as eating sugar without permission. Children were also trained to “share” with other members. “Sharing” is a euphemism for having sex. The cult members were not to work with “Systemites”– normal people who weren’t in the cult.

Faith Jones was taught that she owned nothing. She had to share EVERYTHING with the group… and that included her body. She was told that her body didn’t belong to her; it belonged to God. God wanted her to share her body with anyone who wanted access to it. And using birth control was forbidden, as was refusing sex.

Faith breaks out at age 23

Eventually, Faith realized that she wanted a college education. But cult members were forbidden from studying at a university. They were also forbidden from working at jobs for money. They got all of their money by begging, performing in the street, or selling religious materials or music productions. Once she’d made up her mind, she told the leaders of the commune, who promptly did all they could to force her to stay. Jones was told that if she left the cult, she would end up on drugs or homeless. This is the same threat repeated by other cult leaders, who try to make their victims believe that they can’t make it through life on their own. It was a threat my husband heard, when he decided to quit Mormonism.

But Faith was determined, and fortunately, her mother’s parents were not in the cult. They were able to help her a little bit. Faith also had to rely on her own resources to raise enough money to buy a plane ticket to the United States from China. Living outside of the cult caused Faith Jones significant culture shocks at times. At one point, she lived with a Chinese woman who became enraged with her when she tried to borrow a fan without asking permission. Faith was raised in an environment where people lived communally. She didn’t have a concept of privacy or people not using things without permission.

When she moved to California and looked into attending college, she found that none of the big schools would accept her, because she didn’t have any credentials. Her solution was to attend community college, where she made excellent grades. But she couldn’t relate to other people, since she’d spent her life outside of the United States. She didn’t get pop culture references, and didn’t know how to be “normal” with “Systemites”.

Nevertheless, Faith Jones was an extraordinary student, and she eventually managed to win acceptance to Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. That would have been an exceptional feat regardless, but she made it in as a transfer student, which is a very rare achievement. She graduated Summa Cum Laude, having learned to speak Russian and Mandarin fluently. Then she went to law school at the University of California- Berkeley. Jones writes that she wasn’t particularly attracted to the law, but decided it was a profession in which she would always be able to make a good living. She would not be impoverished again, nor would she ever be beholden to other people. She is now a very successful attorney with her own practice. But she still has many hang ups and complexes that stem from her upbringing in a cult.

Faith Jones has a TED Talk. This is worth listening to, if you don’t want to read the book.

My thoughts

I didn’t really enjoy this book to its fullest until I got to the end. In fact, I really wish that Faith Jones had spent a little more time writing about her life outside of the cult. It was during that time that she “awakened”, and I found that part of the book fascinating and exciting. For instance, she writes about meeting a military officer who was also studying law when she was at Georgetown. He became her boyfriend for a time, and he helped her to overcome some falsehoods that she learned while she was in the cult.

Faith had never learned that sex is not supposed to be painful. When she was in the cult, she was forced to have sex with men she wasn’t attracted to, so she wasn’t prepared to have normal sex. Faith was also raped a couple of times. Her ex boyfriend taught her that sex shouldn’t hurt. He also defined rape to her, which caused Faith to realize that, actually, all of the sexual experiences she’d had before they dated were basically rapes. She hadn’t actually wanted to have sex with those men; she was pressured, coerced, and a couple of times, actually forced to have sex with them. I’m sure that realization was very traumatic for her, but I suspect that in a way, it was also liberating. She learned that she could and should say “no”, and that consent is necessary before sex.

Unfortunately, Faith’s relationship with her boyfriend ultimately couldn’t work out, as he and his parents were members of a different controlling religious cult–the Seventh Day Adventists. Their religion was not as toxic as Faith’s was, but there were too many dynamics within it that were like the Children of God/The Family. Moreover, because of the religion her boyfriend was in, she was asked to lie to his parents, who were not aware that their son had strayed somewhat from the religion’s teachings– no meat, no alcohol, and no sex before marriage.

I was a little surprised when Faith wrote that she hadn’t necessarily been attracted to studying law; she had just wanted to be able to get a good job and make plenty of money on her own. For one thing, I know that not everyone who goes to law school is successful in launching a legal career. For another thing, Faith Jones is obviously very intellectual and has a gift for making cases. She once got a professor at Georgetown to change an A- to an A, when he told her he’d never been convinced to do that before. She laboriously went through all of her work to make her case and managed to change his mind. And she’d done it because she had her heart set on graduating from Georgetown with straight As so she could get the distinction of Summa Cum Laude. I doubt many students are that single-minded and dedicated. To me, it seemed natural that she would become a lawyer. I thought that even before I knew that is, in fact, what she had done after she graduated from college.

I also liked that this book ends on a good note. While I’m not so naive to think that Faith is completely recovered from her traumatic childhood, I do think she’s made great strides toward overcoming some very significant challenges. She does point out that not everyone who was in the cult was that lucky. Her father, for instance, is still impoverished, although she has a good relationship with him and her mother. Her mother was able to pick up the pieces post cult life and start a career in her 50s. That gave me hope, as I will be 50 soon myself, and sometimes I worry about potentially having to support myself. ūüėČ

Finally, I want to comment that this book reminded me a lot of Tara Westover’s book, Educated, which I have also read and reviewed. I think Jones and Westover have a lot in common, although Westover was raised as a fundie Mormon. Personally, I think Educated was a bit easier and more entertaining to read, but both books are worthwhile and gratifying reading. They’re both books about young women who overcome tremendous odds and severe handicaps to achieve great success and greatness in the world. Ultimately, both books are “feel good” stories when all is said and done, but readers have to wade through some disturbing and upsetting passages to get there. Likewise, Tara Westover’s book reminded me of The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls.

Anyway… I am amazed by Faith Jones’s determination, tenacity, resilience, and brilliance. She is a very unusual person and her story is worth reading, if you can stomach the parts about the abuse she and other members of The Family endured. I recommend Sex Cult Nun, but be prepared for some unpleasant shocks– though not as many as I’ve read in other books about the Children of God/The Family.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on purchases made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, LDS, psychology, true crime

Repost: A review of Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight

Here’s an as/is book review that was originally posted on February 10, 2016.

So, I just finished M.E. Thomas’s Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight (2013).  I think I’m left with mixed impressions of this book.  On the positive side, I thought it was reasonably well written, if not occasionally a bit dry.  Thomas offers some interesting theories as to how having sociopathic tendencies could be a positive for some people.  On the negative side, I found Thomas to be rather unlikable, occasionally disturbing, and really more narcissistic than sociopathic.  Also, though she frequently describes herself as “smarter” than regular people and above being emotional, I notice that she does some really dumb things.

I think one of the dumbest things Thomas (a pseudonym) did was go on the Dr. Phil show after she published this book.  I own a newer edition of Confessions of a Sociopath.  At the end of the book, there are some extra materials that include an epilogue about the aftermath of Thomas’s decision to publish Confessions of a Sociopath. 

Thomas writes that she was very careful not to share too much about herself on her blog or in her book.  And yet, Internet sleuths being what they are, her real identity was discovered and she was promptly fired from her job as a law professor.  She was also barred from being within 1000 feet of the university where she worked.  Thomas writes that she doesn’t think the restriction is legally enforceable and notes that it is a significant inconvenience to her, since the area around the school includes her bank, several public transportation stops, and other places she’d need to visit.  Thomas writes that personality disorders are legally protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), but she doesn’t think a jury would be sympathetic to her if she decided to sue. 

From what I can tell, Thomas is still LDS, which I think is pretty much the height of stupidity. ¬†Based on what I’ve read, Thomas was¬†employed by Brigham Young University, which is a Mormon owned school. ¬†She complains that they are discriminating against her; just as they do to many people, to include homosexuals and apostates. ¬†And yet, she’s still in the church. ¬†

Even if I didn’t have serious issues with the way some Mormons treat others who aren’t like them, and even though I realize that there are many attractive, talented, and otherwise intelligent people in the church, I just think Joseph Smith was a liar and a con man, among other things. ¬†People who choose to believe the lies the church was based on and accept its policies are, in my opinion, showing some serious logic deficits. ¬†But then, Thomas writes that she frequently does things that other people might think of as crazy or stupid. ¬†She habitually lives in the sketchiest parts of town, where rents are cheap but burglaries are frequent. ¬†She even walked in on a burglary once, yet didn’t decide to move.¬†

A lot of the examples Thomas uses to describe her so-called “sociopathic” behavior don’t seem all that sociopathic to me.  She writes of one incident where she gets angry at a guy working at the metro in Washington, DC.  The guy yells at her for trespassing.  She says she wants to kill him and follows him for a couple of blocks before she loses him.  In another passage, she writes of trying to kill a baby opossum in a swimming pool.  It fell in there and was on its way to drowning before she found it.  She isn’t able to do it.  Later, she fishes the corpse out of the pool and tosses it over a fence.  Big deal.  She fights with her father.  Who hasn’t? 

Thomas repeatedly explains that she doesn’t really enjoy being a lawyer.  She says she’s a lazy person who thrives on any activity that allows her to game “the system”.  Maybe law was a good field for her for that reason, but one thing good lawyers should be able to do is show good judgment and protect one’s reputation.  I don’t think publishing this book was an example of good judgment, even though Thomas claims that she’s okay with the consequences.  Given that she admits to being sexually attracted to and acting on her attraction to both males and females, I’m surprised she’s still LDS.  She does write that being Mormon forces her to be accountable and a “good person”, so maybe that’s a good thing.   At the same time, she writes about how bloodless and calculating lawyers are.  Hmmm…

I did find Thomas’s anecdotal examples of what makes someone sociopathic versus narcissistic somewhat interesting, though I’m not sure I totally agreed with them.  And, again, I have certainly read books that were not as well written.  I don’t think Thomas is very likable, though she insists that she is… and that people don’t seem to notice her sociopathic tendencies.  I find that somewhat hard to believe, though maybe I’m biased.  Thomas does write that she runs into a lot of people who think sociopaths are inherently evil people.  I’m not sure if that’s true, since I’m not really certain that Thomas is a sociopath.  To me, she seems a lot more like a malignant narcissist than a sociopath.  I’m no expert on sociopaths, though…. On the other hand, I’m not so sure Thomas is, either.

Anyway, I didn’t hate this book. ¬†I didn’t love it. ¬†It has three stars on Amazon.com and I think that’s what I’d give it, too. ¬†Thomas is clearly intelligent and some of what she writes is interesting. ¬†Since she lost her job, maybe it’s not a bad thing that I bought her book. ¬†Of course, given her self-proclaimed ability to charm people, she’s probably landed on her feet somewhere. ¬†Who knows? ¬†Read it if it interests you, though I certainly wouldn’t call¬†Confessions of a Sociopath¬†a must read.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, politics, Trump

A review of Michael Cohen’s Disloyal: A Memoir: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump

I swear, I never cared much at all about politics until the Trump era. Maybe it’s one of the few good things that has come from Trump’s presidency. Regular citizens being complacent about politics is probably one of the main reasons Trump is occupying the White House right now. People are quick to trust con men, and Trump is at the top of the list of modern shysters who thirst incessantly for money and power.

Michael Cohen, a now disgraced former lawyer turned felon, was one of the people Trump fooled. He loved money and power and had made a fortune in New York City in real estate deals and selling taxi medallions, a type of transferable permit cabbies must have in order to operate legally. Cohen had read The Art of the Deal and admired Trump for his apparent business acumen and relentless pursuit of money and power.

Cohen admits his legal pedigree isn’t all that exciting. Like my husband, Bill, Cohen got his undergraduate degree at American University in Washington, DC, graduating a couple of years after Bill did. From there, he attended the Cooley Law School at Western Michigan University. Cohen writes that he went there because it was relatively easy to get accepted, and as long as he managed to pass the bar exam, it wouldn’t matter where he went to law school. He began his career as a personal injury attorney, but then climbed the ranks to more prestigious positions before he joined the Trump Organization in 2006.

Cohen’s role at the Trump Organization was to be Trump’s legal muscle/fixer. It was his job to help Trump cheat people out of money. For this job, Cohen was paid less than he was used to earning. When Trump initially hired Cohen, after giving him a good love bombing with ingratiating flattery, Trump told him he wouldn’t be paying him his usual rate. In fact, Trump never pays full price for anything, and according to Cohen, he does everything in his power to screw over anyone who works for him. But Cohen was initially okay with it, because Trump was his idol. And that kind of tells you what kind of person Cohen is… or was.

Michael Cohen warning us… At this writing, this video has been up for 15 hours.

I’ll be honest. The first time I heard of Michael Cohen was when I saw him in a video, speaking to the court. He was upfront as he shamed a lawyer who was trying to discredit his account of his dealings with Trump. Cohen very forthrightly told the man that he was about to go to prison and that he was there to tell the truth. Something about the way he spoke impressed me. I don’t like hypocrites, and Cohen was not hypocritical as he spoke in that televised proceeding. And, in his book, Cohen freely admits that he’s as slimy as Trump. Or, at least he was as slimy. He now seems to be trying to redeem himself. I’m not stupid enough to believe that part of this effort isn’t about him trying to save his own skin. However, given the dire situation the country is in right now, and the fact that Trump and his flying monkeys have been trying so hard to silence Cohen, I have some respect for him. I think he was brave to publish his book, Disloyal, and that even though he was one of Trump’s legal flunkies, writing this book was a huge favor to the American people.

I’ve been aware of Trump since the late 1980s. People were talking about what a dishonest scumbag he is even back then. I never paid much attention to Trump until he ran for president. I watched with dismay and confusion as people championed him, saying he was “great” for America because he’s not a politician and isn’t politically correct. But the plain fact of the matter is, he lies, cheats, and steals, and he treats women like objects. More than once, Cohen writes about how Trump cornered women and forced them to kiss him, or got them into compromising positions, manhandled, and groped them. Why no one ever clocked Trump in the face before he became leader of the free world, I’ll never know.

Michael Cohen had a very close relationship with Donald Trump. Although Trump is now trying to discredit his former lawyer, saying he wasn’t a “very good lawyer”, he still kept him around for twelve years. And Cohen explains how Trump operates, giving readers insight into the kind of person Trump is. For instance, despite his famous turn on The Apprentice, where Trump is shown barking “You’re fired!” to contestants, Trump doesn’t actually like to fire people. He leaves that job to his many underlings, who are forced to do his dirty work.

And Trump is extremely cheap. Cohen writes one story about how he was tasked with strong arming the Benjamin Moore paint company into giving Trump thousands of buckets of expensive paint because the super cheap product Trump had ordered his contractor to use at the Doral golf resort was shitty and wiped off of the walls. Trump did not pay for the product he needed for the job to be done properly. But somehow, he managed to threaten and bully his way into having the company give him their best product for free. And he did this with a “pit bull” lawyer that he wasn’t even paying full price for.

Disloyal is full of stories like this– tales of how Trump cheated, and tasked his minions to cheat on his behalf. Then, when it came time for him to pay, either with money or favors, he inevitably welched. This was especially true if he didn’t get the results he wanted. For instance, Cohen writes about how he had tasked an information technology expert he knew at Liberty University to fudge the numbers in a poll run by CNBC. The work involved buying many IP addresses and faking the votes to make Trump look like a more impressive businessman. The work cost about $15,000 for the addresses, as well as the expert’s time and knowledge. But CNBC caught the ruse and removed Trump from the poll, despite Cohen’s threats to sue. And the end result was that the IT expert got stiffed.

Cohen’s wife, Laura, and children, Samantha and Jake, hated that Cohen worked for Trump. They regularly begged him to quit. Cohen had plenty of money and didn’t need to work for Trump. Trump would call him at all hours, interrupting them at dinner or on vacations. But worse than that, he was scuzzy to Cohen’s daughter, Samantha, when she was fifteen years old. Cohen writes that once, they were at a Trump resort. Trump was also there, and he saw Samantha taking a tennis lesson. Not knowing she was Cohen’s daughter, Trump mentioned wanting that “piece of ass”. When he became aware that Samantha was Cohen’s daughter, instead of apologizing, Trump told her he’d soon be dating her classmates. Just disgusting! And it’s certainly not the first or only time Trump has treated women like meat, as we all know. There are many references to his disgusting behavior toward women in the news. There’s even a recording of him admitting how he treats them. And yet, in 2016, white women came out in droves to vote for Trump.

Cohen is right that I probably wouldn’t like him very much. He’s a sleazy, money hungry lawyer who has been disgraced and disbarred, and is now doing time. But at least he owns up to being sleazy. And now he’s trying to carve out a niche for himself as one of Trump’s former minions, fighting against the orange turd’s reelection (which he warns will be very dramatic, as Trump won’t go quietly in 2021 or 2025). Well… I can’t blame him, to be honest. And if his book helps people change their minds about Donald Trump, I am all for his decision to publish it. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but I do think it’s valuable in that it offers a look at who Trump is by someone who knows him very well.

I think people should read Disloyal and decide whether or not Donald Trump really is the man who should be leading the United States… or if he should join Cohen behind bars. One thing is very certain to me. Trump does not care about anyone but himself. Just remember that in November.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews

Review of Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir, by Lisa F. Smith

Once again, I’m reviewing a book I bought several years ago and just got around to reading. I purchased Lisa F. Smith’s 2016 book, Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir back in September 2016, and it was sitting in my Kindle, collecting virtual dust all this time. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it, because not only have I finally gotten what I paid for, but I think it’s a hell of a book.

The Jewish daughter of a judge and a housewife, Lisa Smith has always been an overachiever. She got straight As in school, attended Northwestern University, and got a law degree at Rutgers University. After law school, she got a job at an international law firm in New York City and worked her ass off. Interspersed between her working hours, Lisa drank… and drank… and drank. She also snorted cocaine. The cocaine would perk her up after a long evening sucking down booze. The alcohol would help numb her to the pain of untreated major depression.

Lisa had a lot of friends… drinking buddies, who would join her on her benders. She attended a lot of parties put on by the law firm where she worked. She’d wake up feeling parched and nauseated, hands shaking from alcohol withdrawal, mind racing from whatever embarrassing incident might have happened while she was under the influence. She’d have a drink in the morning to settle her nerves, then snort some blow to help her look energized when she had to give presentations at work. When she finally showed up to detox at a locked psychiatric ward at a hospital called Gracie Square, Lisa was on the verge of drinking herself to death. Her friends were supportive… or, at least most of them were at first.

The trip to the hospital is where Lisa starts her story of overcoming addiction. She’d called her doctor, panicked and realizing that she was in real trouble. Even her doctor told her she was “fine”, until Lisa told him about her habits and that she’d been shitting blood. He recommended a hospital in Hell’s Kitchen, which Lisa vetoed out of hand. Then he recommended Gracie Square, which was in a more familiar neighborhood. Lisa called and was told to show up before eleven o’clock. When she arrived, she was told that by signing herself in, she would be required to stay for 72 hours. She agreed, until she saw the “detox” floor, where there were people fighting and yelling at each other. Because she was so scared, Lisa was allowed to stay on the “Asian” floor, on which all of the patients and staff were Asians.

Then, as she finally settles in with some Librium, Lisa goes back to the beginning of her story and explains how it all began. Apparently, Lisa’s childhood helped set her up for addiction to booze and cocaine. She’d had a food addiction, the caused her to get fat. She was teased in school, and a pediatrician told her that if she didn’t stop eating, she’d be big as a house. Lisa’s breasts got huge, so when she was in college, she visited a plastic surgeon who said she would reduce them if Lisa lost thirty pounds. She lost the weight, became “hot”, and started being noticed by men. She drank for courage. She drank to feel sexy and confident, or to forget her problems. It seems to me, this was when she started drinking habits that would land her in rehab.

She runs into a fellow lawyer from Pennsylvania, also a drinker. He’s Catholic. She’s Jewish. They hook up one night after a drinking session, start dating, and get married, seemingly on a whim. The marriage is a disaster, as she hates Pittsburgh and realizes they don’t have enough in common. The depression comes crashing down, augmented by the alcoholism. She goes back to New York City and picks up where she left off… back on the booze train.

Much of Girl Walks out of a Bar consists of Lisa’s stories about being drunk, a few of which are pretty funny. I had a good laugh when she describes being two drinks in when a date turns out to mostly be a teetotaler. She proceeded to get very drunk and high, landed in a heap on the floor, and was “helped” roughly into a taxi. Naturally, she never saw that guy again. Then there was the neighbor, “Mark”, who sort of befriends her. He’s younger than she is and lives in her building. They seem to be starting a relationship of some kind– more like, he wants it and she doesn’t. She kind of kicks him out when he suggests she might need rehab, but then he turns out to be a good friend to her as she gets sober. I felt a little sorry for him, since she seemed to use him somewhat.

Lisa Smith’s writing is witty and funny. She uses a lot of profanity, which some readers like and some don’t. Personally, I like a few good cuss words, especially when they’re liberally sprinkled in funny stories. My one complaint about this book is the way it wraps up. The author doesn’t share much about her journey to sobriety or her struggles staying sober. She finishes detoxing and makes it clear that she won’t be attending a 28 day residential treatment due to her work commitments and the lies she told to get a few days off for detox. Next thing you know, she’s going to A.A. meetings and getting her 90 day chip. She doesn’t share much about how she managed to fight temptation. Her writing about her sobriety is surprisingly less juicy than her writing about being a drunk and a cokehead, which makes the book seem off balance.

However… I still enjoyed reading Smith’s story, mainly because she seemed like someone I would enjoy knowing. She’s smart, funny, and very candid. Also… reading her story made me feel somewhat better about my own drinking habits. She was way worse than I’ve ever been… Basically, she spent ten solid years drunk every single day. It’s amazing that she was able to function, let alone work as a high powered corporate lawyer.

I have read better books about people with drinking problems. The late Caroline Knapp’s book, Drinking: A Love Story comes to mind. I also read Augusten Burrough’s book, Dry, which was one of those books that made me feel a wide range of emotions– from amusement to sadness. I think Girl Walks out of a Bar could have been better than it is. However, I’m glad I read Lisa Smith’s story, because ultimately, it’s a success story. It’s a fairly easy read that kept me engaged. If I were rating it on a scale of one to five, I think I’d give this book four stars. Had she expanded her story after she got sober– told us more about the struggle to stay away from booze and drugs, I could see giving her that fifth star.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon when purchases are made through my blog.

Standard