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How to Grow an Addict: A Novel Paperback – November 3, 2015
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"Raw, honest, fascinating insight into the growing-up years of a girl raised by what might be an ordinary family with ordinary flaws, and the extraordinary effects their lives have on her. J.A. Wright makes Randall so real, you want to go round and pick her up, make her a decent meal and tell her she's going to be okay."
- Michele A'Court, columnist at The Press, New Zealand Comedy Guild's
Comedienne of the Decade 2010 and author of Stuff I Forgot to Tell my Daughter
- Morrin Rout, Former Literary Director of Chch Writers' Festival, Director of Hagley Writers' Institute
"J.A. Wright's How to Grow an Addict is a novelization about Randall, a young girl who is trying to navigate the testy waters of her family life and come out unscathed despite growing up in a house full of addicts and abusers. It reads like a memoir, a sort of "come clean" string of consciousness that chronicles her rise (or rather, fall) from a young girl to a young woman.
The novel is literally what the title implies, a sort of explanation of a series of factors both genetic and environmental that lead to the rise of a small, precocious, and anxious child becoming a full blown addict. Randall has an abusive father and a mother who has a hard time defending her as it is clear that she's terrified of losing him (going so far as to get breast implants in a failed attempt to stop him from sleeping around). He behaves like he hates Randall, and she chews her fingernails to nubs as a result - and has a hard time functioning in a normal world without fidgeting.
Randall is immensely likable, and though the reader begins to see her make a series of missteps as she gets older in an attempt to seek out love in "all the wrong places," the novel never takes on a judgmental tone. Randall is just a girl who's trying to navigate a very difficult situation that gets increasingly more difficult as life takes away some of her fiercest protectors and supporters. She is selfish, but only in a way that an addict is - someone who cannot see past their impulsive decisions into what the consequences may mean. It doesn't matter to her as she's just trying to get by in the only way she knows how. Her family resembles a million families, and some readers might even see some parallels between her family and their own in an alcoholic, abusive father who prioritizes a son above a daughter and creates another monster in the process; her brother who comes to hate her and lack empathy as much as her father does; her mother who is not perfect, but sad and unable to manage an angry and abusive husband, and who turns to anti-anxiety pills and alcohol as a way to cope.
The novel ends with Randall beginning to accept help from those who have to foist it onto her and ends with an uplifting message: people can make a choice to recover and do the right thing. There may be mistakes and trip-ups in the process, but it's a process worth doing. This is a great book, and even if readers don't have first-hand experience with addicts or dysfunctional families, Randall feels real-life enough to turn to when it comes to trying to deal with real-life addiction. Readers should definitely give this one a shot."- Portland Book Review
How To Grow An Addict
Brilliant and an unstoppable read. This novel takes us right to the roots of a young addict's mind and vividly through the sights, sounds and smells of growing up. Wright radiates veracity from the tiniest of incidental details to the greatest of comic and tragic catastrophes. Part Charles Dickens part Charlie Brown. It is, in turn, thrilling and heart- breaking. She also pulls off the difficult trick of making one identify with the simple humanity of the main character, whether or not one has anything in common with her. Wright is never judgmental. It feels so intimate and honest that I felt privileged and humble at being confided in with Randall's story. Beautifully woven, beautifully told and deeply enthralling; as soon as I had finished the book I wanted another one . . . hmm, should I be worried? Not in this case. This is a superb and inspiring first novel, a new writer blossoms.
Peter Mielniczek - Actor-comedian and artist (February 2017)
“Wright deftly and insightfully describes how a life can spiral toward addiction and rehab. The story is raw and touching and I found myself rooting for Randall as she navigates redemption and sobriety. A gritty and honest read.”
—Susie Orman Schnall, award-winning author of On Grace and The Balance Project
“Wright dares to stomp where others only lightly tread, and does so with grace, craft, and an unusual ease. This is not a sob story about abuse, damage, and addiction, it’s a story of how bravery, self-recognition, and the desire for happiness slap the former in the face and gleam with hope. A great read and lesson for anyone who’s been there, hopes to get elsewhere, or simply needs to read a story that resonates.”
—Maria Kostaki, author of Pieces: A Novel
About the Author
J.A. Wright was raised in the Pacific Northwest and moved to New Zealand in 1990. She is the founder and director of the World Buskers Festival (1994–2014), and the New Zealand Jazz and Blues Festival (1997–present). With more than thirty years in recovery from drug addiction, she’s been crafting this novel for years.