'my dead friend sarah' was recommended to me by one of my very living friends, who stumbled upon it on amazon, and i'm happy he did.
there's a lot of good here. both of the main characters are well-developed simply feel real. they're unsure, insecure, fallible, and true. they're also richly painted, but the author leaves enough unsaid that you wonder what else there is to them - what more is behind their sometimes chilling, sometimes heartening, always smooth flowing narratives. the plot is just far enough fetched to keep it interesting while remaining grounded in reality. and the ending ties it all together in a way i did not see coming. read: goosebumps.
i could go on about the characters, the story, the alternately beautiful, gritty, and propulsive writing. but that's not what left the biggest impression.
the one thing that stands out to me two weeks after my reading this novel is that, in a very important way (from a reader's standpoint), this is very different from the more famous alcoholism-as-backdrop novels. i find that the others i've read, and i won't mention any freys, feel self-serving and self-pitying. and while i won't ever claim to understand how difficult the disease must be to live with, i don't want to feel bad for an author or a character when i'm reading. and in 'my dead friend sarah,' i didn't have to feel that way at all. there seems to be a conscious restraint in the writing, a feeling that the book is supposed to be about the characters and the story, not the author and his own story or the general plight of the alcoholic. we aren't dragged through the 12 steps. we're instead ushered through the story. and it's a damn good story.
i can't tell you how refreshing this sensation is.