“I could feel my chin falling towards my chest, my back hunching forward. My body was acting on its own, and my mind was empty, like all my memories had been erased. There was scenery behind my lids. Aqua colored water and powdery sand that extended for miles. I was never going back to coke. I wanted more heroin. And I wanted it now.” Leaving behind a nightmarish college experience, nineteen-year-old Nicole and her best friend Eric escape their home of Bangor, Maine to start a new life in Boston. Fragile and scared, Nicole desperately seeks a new beginning to help erase her past. But there is something besides freedom waiting for her in the shadows–a drug that will make every day a nightmare. Heroin. With one taste, the love that once flowed through Nicole’s veins turns into cravings. Tracks mark the passing of time, and heroin’s grip gets tighter. It holds her hand through deaths and prostitution, but her addiction keeps her in the darkness. When her family tries to strike a match to help light her way, Nicole must choose between a life she can hardly remember, or a love for heroin she’ll never forget.
The addictive personality is a scary thing. The memoirs of an addict, a scarier thing. The author who knows how to bring both the personality and the stories together into a series of reads, brilliantly terrifying. Marni Mann’s Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales is one of the scariest, totally based on reality reads I have encountered in quite some time and is very much like reading the transcript of an episode of A & E’s Intervention.
At just nineteen year old, Nicole has survived a horrifying experience – one so awful that she should have immediately immersed herself in therapy in order to learn how to deal with what she survived. Instead, Nicole leaves college and with her best-friend, Eric leaves her home and family in Bangor, Maine for what she hopes will be a fresh start in Boston. From the moment the two arrive, they are at a disadvantage with little education, very little in the way of marketable skills and, a penchant for smoking pot. Neither Eric nor Nicole have any desire to change their ways and it doesn’t take either of them long to move beyond smoking pot and into harder drugs.
Nicole’s descent into full-blown addiction is startlingly swift and no matter how bad her life conditions become, she can’t make herself even consider seeking help. For Nicole, she has everything she needs: the drugs help her forget her horrifying past, the work she does contributes to the drugs she and Eric buy and consume and, she has her best-friend by her side to enable her behavior. The high Eric and Nicole chase is so alluring that each are willing to experiment and in no time, each is lost in heroin. For Nicole, the situation is perfect right up to the moment Eric dies from an overdose. Nicole is devastated by the loss of her best-friend but the heroin is stronger than her grief.
Over the next months (and years!) Nicole sinks further and further into her addiction and becomes the poster child for drug addiction. Nicole lies, steals, prostitutes herself, anything she has to do in order to fuel her addiction. Nicole attaches herself to whomever will supply her and debases herself in ways that are near-inconceivable. The scenes from this time in Nicole’s life are some of the read’s most graphic and horrifying. From allowing her body to be abused by strangers, by drugs, by herself to the moments when she can’t afford drugs and her body begins to detox are truly disgusting. At every turn and with every new disaster, you think Nicole can’t sink any further and yet, she finds new and improved ways to harm herself and those around her. Her rock bottom is the bottom of a chasm and when she hits, the effect reverberates through not only her life but her family’s as well.
The Bottom Line: I clearly had very little respect for sleep and my schedule the following day because I stayed up all night in order to read this book cover to cover. Nicole’s story is truly terrifying and the allure of the read is not just in the journey she takes into madness but in how raw the read is. Mann pulls no punches and lays bare precisely how ugly addiction is and how it impacts not just the user but those around him or her. Nicole’s life is her addiction and this novel is her life. I warn you, dear reader this is not a happy read but it is fascinating, well-written and, a study in addiction. It is also not the end of Nicole’s story . . . .
I could make up a story to cover the last eight years, but the scars on my arms told the truth. So did my ankles, the skin between my toes, even the veins that had burst on my breasts. Did my battle wounds really prove I was a survivor? Or was I too damaged to be glued back together?” Nicole had only one skyline to remind her of the freedom she’d lost-a tattoo of inked buildings dotting the skies of Boston, crisscrossed by scars. Heroin had owned her, replaced everyone and everything she’d once loved. The past was supposed to be behind her. It wasn’t, but that was the price of addiction. Two men love her; one fills a void, and the other gives her hope of a future. Will love find a way to help her sing a lullaby to addiction, or will her scars be her final good-bye?
**This review is spoilerish for Book #1: Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales**
Scars from a Memoir opens with Nicole and her family dealing with the fall out of her poor-decisions ridden life and the choices she made in the years prior to this moment. Nicole’s addiction led her to rock bottom and as she fell, she took her brother (and many others, to be completely fair!) with her. The loss of her brother, the activities she was involved in prior to his death and, her time in jail taught Nicole the value of life and for the first time in years, Nicole is legitimately clean and ready to move beyond the nightmare that has come before.
Sobriety wasn’t easily achieved for Nicole given the depths she had sunk to and the hold heroin had on her. In fact, even though she is sober and ready to move into a sober-living home, heroin still has a tight grip on her mind and each and every day is a struggle. The difference? Nicole’s desire to live her life and ensure that her brother didn’t die in vain has a tighter grip on her brain than the heroin does. Committed to her path and determined to re-establish a true relationship with her parents, Nicole moves into the sober living facility in Boston and embarks on a whole new existence. As the facility demands, Nicole keeps to the house curfew, she attends meetings and, she is gainfully employed at a local coffee shop. Though her life certainly isn’t easy, Nicole is standing her own two feet and learning how to live a normal life again.
In her first few weeks of freedom, Nicole slowly begins to settle in and finds support among her fellow sober living residents and many of her co-workers who are also recovering addicts. Though romantic relationships are frowned upon so quickly after leaving treatment, Nicole meets Asher, a young man who is both interested in her and in helping her heal from her traumatic past. In a most unusual turn of events, Asher also happens to be connected to Nicole’ s brother and is most interested in helping her find closure regarding his death and her role in it that event. Though Asher is true in his feelings toward Nicole, he is young and very often has a hard time helping her deal with both her past and her present. In the moments she is without Asher and needs support, Nicole turns to Mark, a man from her past. Mark is an unusual character in that, he may be from Nicole’s past but he is not one of the big bads and is very, very interested in his role in Nicole’s future.
On many levels, Nicole thrives in her new life but her past isn’t quite done with her. On several occasions, Nicole is quite literally confronted by her past and/or people from her past who are most interested in Nicole’s failure. To be precise, there are several among the group that want to see Nicole pay for her role in putting them in prison or simply want to drag her back into the hell that was her world for so many years. Nicole fights her demons at every turn but life in Boston is hard for her and as events become to come to a head Nicole faces several challenges that truly threaten both her life and her sobriety. Though not in the way you might expect, Asher betrays Nicole, one of her “friends” from her past dies of an overdose and, the house mother at her sober living facility begins to spiral out of control. At every turn, Nicole fights to hold on to her sobriety and clings to Mark to help her through the new wave of madness that has washed over her life. Against all the odds, Nicole rises from the ashes once again and when she finds her wings, she is finally able to fly.
The Bottom Line: Though this read isn’t quite as dramatic or dark as the first in the series, it is still a roller coaster ride. What this book very much does is reminds the reader that an addict’s story is far, far from over once they get sober. Nicole may have conquered one of her demons but staying in Boston means her other demons are not ever far from her doorstep. The things that Nicole experiences in this read are, to her way of thinking the natural results of her bad choices and things she must endure in order to continue to atone for her past. Mann is completely fearless in approach to this read and doesn’t let up at any point. Through Nicole’s life and story, Mann drives home the point that addiction is a life-long issue and has far-reaching consequences. To say that Mann drops a bomb at the end doesn’t even come close and I found myself gutted by this read. As I have come to expect from Marni Mann’s reads this book is emotional and dark with moments of hope and light. It is also well-written, strong and, has a clear voice that is so very common in this modern world. In all, and excellent, cautionary tale.
Best-selling author Marni Mann, knew she was going to be a writer since middle school. While other girls her age were daydreaming about teenage pop stars, Mann was fantasizing about penning her first novel. She crafts sexy, titillating stories that weave together her love of darkness, mystery, passion, and human emotion. A New Englander at heart, she now lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband and their two dogs who subsequently have been characters in her books. When she’s not nose deep in her laptop working on her next novel, she’s scouring for chocolate, sipping wine, traveling to new locations, and devouring fabulous books.