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Drinking: A Love Story
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336 of 343 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2001
This book changed my life, and I just wish I could thank Caroline Knapp personally. I guess I was in denial for a long time. While in a bookstore, I plucked her book off the shelf, feeling the need for some sort of literary intervention and thinking it was a short read. I started reading it with a glass of wine in my hand. As I read, I realized with horror and some degree of sadness that she was describing me, along with countless other women in the same position. From the recyling bin to the lies, I could relate on almost every level (I was not one to end up in bed with strange men). It took courage for me to read the book through to its end, and to realize what I had to do. I called my mother and told her that I was an alcoholic. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do. Both my grandfathers were alcoholics, and my mother has always "wondered" if this were passed on to any of us. I decided that I would quit, with the help of family and friends, before I got to the point where I hurt or destroyed someone I love. I haven't had a drink since. I urge anyone who feels that they might be in denial to read this book and see if they can identify with the author's point of view. I thank Caroline Knaff for opening my eyes and pointing me in the right direction. I'm not sure that people who DON'T drink to excess will get anything out of this book ... I wouldn't believe half of it if I hadn't done these crazy things myself......
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186 of 193 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2004
As much as I loved this book, I doubt it will impress people who aren't alcoholic or dealing with an alcoholic. Had I read this book in college, I would probably have sympathized with her problems but ultimately thought she was simply flaky and needed to just stop doing the stupid things she describes - not that complicated.

As it is, I read this book when I had become fully aware that my own relationship with alcohol had ceased to be simply "great when it's around - like a good meal" and begun to be compulsive. The absence of a drink became an 800 pound elephant in the room, and I noticed that at some point I had stopped enjoying being sober. For me, that was when I realized I had crossed a line and that drinking was no longer cute or funny. Somewhere along the way, it had managed to insinuate itself as the center of my life, even though I never would have admitted it out loud. My first thought when invited to a social event was whether alcohol would be served. My first thought when going out to a meal in the evening was whether they had a liquor license. I had mentally divided my friends into drinkers and non-drinkers, and I had managed to do so without believing there was anything weird about this.

That is the subtle tug of alcoholism that Ms. Knapp exposes. To everyone around the alcoholic, it is obvious that there is a problem. To the alcoholic, he simply wants to suck the marrow out of life, and can't understand why people aren't with him. Yet, if pressed, most alcoholics will admit that their life stopped being happy right around the time they started drinking regularly (it is a depressant, after all. This shouldn't be surprising). They will have what Ms. Knapp describes as that "a-ha" moment when alcoholics consider the possibility - obvious to everyone else but new and original to them - that they do not drink because they are unhappy. They are unhappy because they drink.

Ms. Knapp's book is ideal, and potentially life-saving, for the intelligent, highly-functioning alcoholic who has not yet done anything so stupid that they are forced to recognize what everyone else in their life probably knows. This book could be the catalyst that allows them to head their problems off at the pass, because alcoholism ONLY gets worse. There's a well-known speech about alcoholics in AA that includes a memorable phrase about what it feels like to be alcoholic - "the worst part is, people will never know how hard we tried". Many an alcoholic can identify with this - no matter how many times alcohol has kicked you, it is the hardest thing you'll ever do in your life to quit. Trust me on this and respect the next recovered alcoholic you meet. Had they had a choice, they would rather have walked across the Sahara. But they took a deep breath and tried to do the right thing for themselves and others.

Like so many reviewers of this book, I regret that the author died before I could personally thank her for the insights this book provides. However, she is in my prayers, and I hope she's enjoying a very sober, happy existence with the same Higher Power that watched out for her here on earth.
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180 of 190 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2002
I was browsing in a bookstore waiting for my comet photos to be developed when I saw this book on the "New" shelf. I started reading, and then put it back when it was time to pick up my pictures. But I couldn't stop thinking about this book, so I went back and bought it. I read it at the kitchen table while drinking a glass of wine. Alarm bells kept clanging and clanging. When I got halfway through, I realized I was just like her--a highly educated writer with a drinking problem. She has a great line in there--that sometimes insight is just a reversal of cause and effect. I don't drink because I have all these problems, I have all these problems because I drink! With horror and tears, I called a friend I knew in AA who brought me to a meeting. I've been clean and sober now for 5 years. I read in the NY Times today that Carolyn Knapp died yesterday from lung cancer at only 42 years of age. That makes me very sad. I feel very grateful to her and her wonderful book. It changed my life.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2002
I've spent 26 of the past 28 years as a sober, happy, recovering alcoholic. This is the best-written account I've seen of how it feels, how we deceive ourselves and others, the struggle of secrecy and denial, the battle of recovery, etc.
I found it very much like a long, heart to heart conversation with Caroline, and was sad when she stopped talking to me. I wanted more!
I loved it so much I immediately ordered eight copies for friends and family, and planned to write Caroline to thank her. Sounds like she'd be a delightful dinner companion! Broke my heart to read tonight that she died of lung cancer last summer...alas, probably from all those cigarettes with the booze.
I find it fascinating that 95% of reviewers think it is very well-written, magnificent,compelling---and 5% think it is awful, repetitious, boring. Can't help wondering which are alcoholic!
If you or anyone in your family has a problem, or thinks they may have a problem with alcohol, this book may save your life.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2002
I was told by my mother earlier this week that Carolyn Knapp, author of 'Drinking: A Love Story", had died of cancer at age 42. I immedietly broke down a cried- which is hard for me to do. But Ms Knapp's autobiographical book about alcoholism was so important to me, my family and my therapist, in understanding and recognizing the thinking/feelings in a functional alcoholic. I had always wanted to read more from her, but don't see that she published another book....and, of course, I always had wanted the opportunity of either meeting her at a book signing, or writing to her, to thank her for her honesty and insight into this problem.....now it is to late to say this to her directly, and I grieve...but I also celebrate the life she had, and her courage and strength in overcoming this most maddening of problems. To anyone interested in a true and thoughtful book on functional alcoholics (of which there are many of us), or to anyone who is in a close relationship with such a person, this is THE book to read.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2001
Once I started reading it, I had trouble putting this book down (kind of like my experience with alcohol!). This book is powerful and compelling. Alcoholism claims many victims, as any Friday night visit to an ER will show. However, this book gives a most insightful look at the emotional and physical damage this disease causes to the alcoholic and loved ones closest to them. Non-alcoholics may not "get" the descriptiions of compulsions, mind games, and sense of powerlessness felt by alcoholics, but they can certainly understand the pain caused to lovers, parents, and others close to the addicted person.
This book is sometimes funny, often sad, occasionally verges on shocking - pretty standard experiences of alcoholics, but often misunderstood by others. Although it drags a bit in the middle, time will likely make this work a classic narritive of the alcoholic experience.
I encourage anyone who has been touched by this disease, either alcoholics or those close to them, to read this book. Due to the detailed description of drinking situations, I would not suggest someone in the first few weeks of recovery to read this, however.
Thank you Caroline, for your courage to share your experience, strength, and hope with us.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2000
This wonderful book was instrumental in getting me to rehab and a life of sobriety....it described my drinking to a tee, and helped cut through my unbelievable conviction that I, who drank to get drunk every other day, kept thinking I could drink! For every woman who is an active drinker, but has the gnawing wish for help, this is required reading! As for those who are long in recovery, may be it is not so helpful....but if for those unhappy drinkers, who try and try to stop, but can't, this may be the proverbial hammer that will deal a fatal blow to the vicious cycle of "...just one little glass of wine...." Thank you, Ms. Knapp!
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2005
I'm always dismayed when I read reviews of this book that say "Knapp had the most privileged upbringing and she still wants to whine about her alcoholism and her eating disorder." That is precisely the point of this book! Alcoholism happens to the privileged, to the rich, to the high-functioning, to the very successful. Pain and alcoholism are not limited to any social class or type of profession. For anyone who questions their drinking, who is an alcoholic, and especially for the millions who suffer the pain of loving/living with an alcoholic, recognition of Knapp's actions and emotions will leap of the page. Another review I read claimed the book was boring and there was no scintillating rock-bottom low to make it interesting-"Knapp just sat at home and drank." Once again, anyone who has lived the life will recognize the pain and the turmoil of rock bottom without some Hollywood-type incident.

The difference between this book and something like Augusten Burrough's Dry (also an excellent read) is that Knapp is no amateur describing her experience. Her book, while composed mainly of a heart-wrenching narrative, is also jam packed with research to support her statements, alcoholism statistics (with footnotes), references to other memoirs of alcoholism, and most important, a list of questions for those who are questioning their drinking. She describes how her answers to the tell-tale questions changed as her disease progressed.

There is no cookie-cutter picture of an alcoholic, but Knapp's story is so comprehensive that many people will find bits and pieces that they identify with or relate to. This is a book to re-read every couple of years. I first read it in January, and I plan to pick it up every year from now one. Caroline Knapp, thank you for your everlasting legacy.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2005
I hadn't read this (again) for several years when I pulled it out last week. Of course it's a little different now, knowing Ms. Knapp has passed. Yet the same message. The same denial systems. The same clinging to rationalization. The same system of blame. But a great honest, truthful, candid story of the journey.

What did stun me however was the number of negative reviews. Why did you pick up the book to begin with? Did you leave your reading glasses in your purse and you thought the author was Danielle Steel? You misread "Caroline Knapp" and thought it said "Sue Grafton?" James Patterson? Is that how you were mislead? Did you write your review before you read the book?

I speak with some considerable insight about the experience, strength and hope of someone telling 'their' story. And no, I don't believe that AA is the only answer to staying sober if you have the disease. There are other ways to do it. Dyer and Bradshaw have some other suggestions. There are rehab joints that don't push you into AA. There are halfway houses that don't assume or demand attendance at AA. A lot of Judges sentence you to 90 in 90 at AA and you have to come back with signed sheets when you are on your 2nd or 3rd DUI or DWI. Those judges probably know something you don't but I wouldn't venture a guess what that is.

But what I am certain of is that there is no one picture, not one behavior, not one description, not one story, not one event of an alcoholic. Some are abused, some are arrogant, some are quiet, some don't get it, some don't stay sober, some don't care about the "why," and some just find peace in telling their story. That's it. You see for those of you fighting the program, they have to tell their story in order to keep sober for the next 24 hours.

So Caroline Knapp tells her story and Holy Cow, you just want to stand up and applaud. You Lady Macbeth protesters, it's not about the what and the how she got here, it's about being here.

I'll continue to read 'her' story every couple of years. It's not my story but it's inspirarational. I find strength in it. I find hope in it. And those of you who think she's being melodramatic, that she's on the pity-pot, that she's using her poor wealthy childhood to sell books, well, we'll save a chair for you at the tables. 5 stars. Larry Scantlebury
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2002
I cannot say enough about this book. This was THE book that helped me see that I was an alcoholic. As a woman I read this book and thanked God that Carolyn had the courage to write it. I recognized myself in almost every page. If you have ever stayed awake at night wondering if you have a drinking problem ......you do! Carolyn describes the living hell that it is to be an alcoholic.....in a way that ONLY somebody who has been there can. Her passing so early in life is very sad and so is the fact that we will never get a chance to grow in sobriety along with her. She leaves an extremely powerful book as a legacy and I strongly recommend it to all addiction counselors as a way to really feel, and maybe understand, what it is like to suffer this addiction. Alcoholism is a devastating disease, and especially so for women......I encourage women who drink, or know someone who drinks too much......please read this remarkable book.
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