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Drinking Closer to Home: A Novel Paperback – January 18, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Blau's second novel (after The Summer of Naked Swim Parties) revolves around a family in crisis after a mother's debilitating heart attack. The troubled adult children of Buzzy and Louise come home to visit their parents on their hippie ranch in Santa Barbara, Cal., "where the days are so sunny you'd swear a nuclear reactor had exploded." Sisters Anna and Portia, and brother Emery, recall the events that led them to their restless present. Emery and his partner, Alejandro, tip-toe around the topic of asking a sister to donate eggs so that they can have a child. During their week-long visit everyone must deal with uncomfortable details about their parents' personal lives, as well as the ghosts of the people they once were, wishing that they could leave their childhood wounds behind once and for all. Blau writes funny, often heartbreaking, and always relatable anecdotes. She aptly describes the family visiting Louise in the hospital: "every day, a moment comes when someone can no longer take sitting in the beeping, stinking room." Blau's lifelike characters are such a joy to get to know that one feels sorry to leave them behind.
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From Booklist

The bohemian Southern California Stein family faces a crisis when its matriarch, Louise, suffers a massive heart attack. The three adult children, Anna, Portia, and Emery, return home to hold vigil and commiserate over their unusual upbringing, recalling Louise’s fondness for frequenting the nude beach; her pot habit, which inspired their father to devote his avid gardening skills to cultivating a deluxe homegrown version in their backyard; and Louise’s abdication of her parental role when she gave Emery’s care over to Portia, then age eight. All three have suffered from being raised in a chaotic environment. Anna is chronically unfaithful to her husband, eyeing every male stranger as a potential bedmate. Portia struggles to recover her self-esteem in the wake of her husband’s desertion. Emery, happily in love with his soul mate, Alejandro, has become obsessed with domesticity. Blau uses every trick in a writer’s arsenal to make readers care about this flawed, very human family. From painful humor to poignant scene-setting, she takes no prisoners in her candid look at an unconventional clan. --Joanne Wilkinson
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 337 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (January 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061984027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061984020
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

THE WONDER BREAD SUMMER, Jessica Anya Blau's third novel, was featured on NPR's All Things Considered as a Thrilling Summer Read.'s book club picked THE WONDER BREAD SUMMER as a Thrilling Beach Read. CNN featured THE WONDER BREAD SUMMER as a Best Beach Read.

Jessica Anya Blau's second novel, DRINKING CLOSER TO HOME, was featured in Target stores Breakout Author series. Novelist Irina Reyn calls it, "Unrelentingly, sidesplittingly funny." The Austin Chronicle says that, "The domestic relationships in the book are brilliantly rendered, a contemporary California version of Philip Roth." Author Dylan Landis says the book is, "So raw and funny I wanted to read parts aloud to strangers."

Jessica'a first novel, THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES, was chosen as a Top Ten Summer Read by the Today Show, The New York Post and New York Magazine. Cosmo called it a "Sexy Summer Read!" The San Francisco Chronicle and the Rocky Mountain News chose THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES as a Best Book of the Year.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Liz on March 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
In Drinking Closer to Home, Jessica Anya Blau paints a vivid, painful, and funny portrait of three siblings and their parents. The family members are all damaged, in part due to their unconventional family life, yet they remain fiercely loyal to one another. The book is riveting - I stayed awake late into the night reading (not something I usually do) because I wanted to find out what the characters would do next. What is most amazing about the book, though, is not the recklessness of the characters' behavior or the outrageousness of the situations they find themselves in (nor is it the detailed imagery and accuracy with which Blau brings the scenes to life, though this is impressive, too); rather, it is Blau's ability to make these wild characters so compelling and so real; nothing in this novel feels inauthentic or exaggerated, but at the same time I could not have predicted or imagined any of it. This is a really great book by a really great author - I recommend it wholeheartedly!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Alison's VINE VOICE on February 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
I was at once appalled and in love with this quirky family!

Anna, Portia and Emery are summoned back home when their mother, Louise, has a massive heart attack. During Louise's time in the hospital recovering, the three children reminisce about their childhood, their odd parents, Buzzy and Louise, their even odder extended family and where the road has taken them.

"It has only been recently that Anna forgave her mother for a litany of crimes Anna had been carrying in her stomach like a knotted squid."

As soon as I started reading Drinking Closer to Home, it felt so much like a memoir, I had to look at the copyright page just to make sure that it said "fiction" at the front. At the end of the book, the author interviews her own family, on whom the characters are based. What happens in between is pure magic.

Oh, how I cringed! Oh, how I laughed! Oh, how I felt compelled to turn the pages!

The very things that might make another family miserable are the very things that make this family work. The prolific swearing, the filthy house, and the unabashed drug use made me want to read the pages with my eyes half closed while learning about this crazy family. The humor, the brutal honesty, and the love made me want to want to be a part of it.

There were several scenes in the book that made me laugh out loud. There was one part in the book where we flashback to 1976 and the kids were visiting their grandparents Otto and Billie.

"Emory was hovering nearby, hiding himself from Otto, who had publicly called him Sissy Boy at least three times in the last hour. Emery thought that if only his grandfather could see the singing and dancing extravaganza of the Corny Kids Variety Show, he'd never call Emery a sissy again.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on January 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
In Santa Barbara, fifty-something Louise suffers a massive heart attack. She remains in a hospital in critical condition with her prime complaint being the lack of a cigarette or two hundred. Her husband Buzzy the lawyer promised Louise he would conceal her condition from their three adult kids, but could not as he needs them near for his sake.

Anna flies in from Vermont; leaving behind a spouse she cheats on due to a sex addiction to run their florist business and their infant. Portia, separated from her cheating spouse Patrick, arrives alone since their daughter Esme lives with her father's lover. TV producer Emery and his boyfriend Alejandro also come from the East Coast; they hope to persuade his older sisters to donate their eggs so that they can raise a baby; they already have selected the chosen female bearer. The bickering horde invade Louise's room causing havoc to the hospital's rule keepers, which in turn elates Louise still a renegade hippie after all those years.

The insightful story line rotates focus from the present mostly at the hospital and the past in which each protagonist recalls incidents differently. Louise is the prime player who holds the strong quirky family drama together. Buzzy and the children have flaws that make each seen real and lead to fans empathizing with them; especially Portia who as the middle child became the mom when her older sister and their mother abdicated the role yet her daughter rejects her.

Harriet Klausner
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Drescher on February 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a wonderful book. I must confess, during the first half of the book, although I was fascinated by the characters, I kept waiting for the hook of the story to begin. Soon, though, I realized that this was a book without a gimmicky plot device: the real hook was the remarkable portrayal of these characters and the very real love and conflict that the family experiences within itself. I remember thinking early in the book how unattractive the characters are; but as the book wears on all of the characters for good or ill show themselves to be warm loving human beings. Although this family is deeply flawed I found myself very much wanting to become part of it. I kind of wish that the writer hadn't added the postscript concerning the reaction of her real family members to their portrayals in the book. I preferred to think of these characters living whole within my imagination. The writing is funny and insightful and moving all at the same time. You'll have to excuse me now; I need to go out eat some fried chicken and smoke a cigarette.
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