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Parched Hardcover – May 31, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following a series of memoirs detailing struggles with alcoholism (Smashed; Dry), NPR commentator King chronicles her 20 years as an alcoholic before her family's intervention led to sobriety. Written with a New Englander's wry sense of humor, King recounts her childhood in a small New Hampshire town with her six siblings and her parents' struggle to support the family. Entering her teenage years during the '60s, King experimented with drugs and alcohol, slowly coming to crave "that warm, comforting glow." After seven years in college, King moved to Boston, where her alcoholism gained momentum in the city's many bars, and despite her dream to write she moved from one waitressing job to another, surprisingly getting her law degree while in a state of perpetual inebriation. King's tales from her Boston rooming house detail such wonders as the communal bathroom ("walls were splotched with blood") and the residents ("drunks, drug addicts, paranoid schizophrenics... [they] were a colorful lot"). The Bible verses that begin each chapter give an uneasy sense of impending proselytism, but not until the epilogue do readers discover King's Catholic faith. While entertaining and witty, this memoir offers no new revelations about an alcoholic's life and will mainly interest those sharing King's Northeast roots.
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From the Publisher

Loaded with jokes and wicked anecdotes…Parched is a big-picture kind of memoir, literary and complete. - Robin Vaughn, Boston Phoenix, 6/24/05

A remarkable story of spiritual enlightenment from the depths of alcoholism. - Bradley Quick, The Bradley Quick Show, KRLA (Los Angeles) 5/28/05

Pained adolescence…sordid drinking days…King avoids the clichés in favor of self-deprecating humor….terrifying, and equally human. - Claire Suddath, Nashville Scene 6/23/05

Poignant…It gives us all hope for embracing grace. - Arlene Helderman, National Catholic Reporter 5/20/05

King uses humor and bare-bulb honesty to describe her childhood… and the 20 years she spent drunk. - Stephanie Bouchard, Maine Sunday Telegram 7/3/05

It’s a story about a good girl gone bad - gone good. "Parched,"…lays naked her 18 years wrapped in drugs and alcohol: sweet memories, toilet rims and all. - Jeanné McCartin, Portsmouth Herald 7/11/05

Through her gift of words, she is a living suggestion of the potential each of us has for knowing happiness precisely because we thirst. - Fr. James Behrens, OCSO, Our Journey Toward Happiness, Monastery of the Holy Spirit 6/14/05

Poignant, painfully honest and inspirational true story of her 20-year struggle with alcoholism. - Gay City News (New York), 6/23/05

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Chamberlain Bros.; First Edition edition (May 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596090812
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596090811
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James A. Testa on June 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
You probably don't know the name Heather King, unless you've heard some of her commentaries on NPR radio or read her essays in magazines. But I'm guessing you've heard of her little brother, Joe King, aka Joe Queer. Parched is an autobiography in which Heather King tells the story of her life and her decades-long addiction to alcohol. Its brutally frank, and remarkably detailed; clearly, even when she was drinking herself to death, Heather kept detailed journals. The story starts in her white-trash home in New Hampshire, then moves to Boston. It's an amazing story-even when she was drinking all the time, Heather managed to graduate from college with honors, finish law school, and pass the bar exam on her first try (it took John F. Kenney Jr., presumably clean and sober, three or four attempts, as I recall.) But although she was clear gifted and intelligent (and, as this book proves, had the makings of an author in her,) Heather was never able to move on with anything, including her law degree, until a family intervention forced her to face her problem and enter rehab. Through it all-the blackouts, the casual meaningless sex, the demeaning day jobs waitressing in dive restaurants-there's humor and humanity, and as colorful a cast of characters as you'll find in any book this year. The book ends with Heather finding sobriety, and there's at least one more book about the years since - finding her way back to practicing law, to becoming a writer, to NPR, and to finishing this book. I can't wait for the sequel. - Jim Testa
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most addiction memoirs share a common theme: look at me. But not Heather King's bittersweet, "Parched." On every page she seems to say, "look away. There's nothing to see here."

Addiction memoirs also share another common theme: It's not my fault. Except King doesn't play the blame game. She doesn't blame an alcoholic home, childhood sexual abuse, a bad relationship, a catastrophic illness or event, unmet expectations or a reckless youth. She completely self-destructs under her own power.

Finally, addiction memoirs usually have this in common: I am pathetic; feel sorry for me. King knows she's pathetic and she not only doesn't feel sorry for herself, she refuses to allow the reader to indulge in a pity party, either.

King writes from such a shocking and hard perspective that her story caught me off-balance. In fact, I felt a little punch-drunk, stumbling along with her as she careened from one unfathomable disaster to another. I've never felt so inside an addiction story. It is what it is, she seems to say. And what it is is ugly.

Yet, a profound sense of shame anchors this book. And her feeling of unworthiness is palatable even if it is inexplicable - this is a woman who graduated with honors from law school despite being chronically drunk. This is not a memoir masquerading as an explanation, or a boast, or revenge or even as a triumph. It is a memoir written as a stark confession. "Parched" is an intimate exploration of recovery through forgiveness.
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Format: Hardcover
Heather King has written my favorite story in what I affectionately call "the booze books." Her beautiful writing coupled with unflinching and heartbreaking honesty make this memoir hard to put down. I copied the final paragraph and taped it in my car as a reminder of where she (and I) come from. It is nothing short of astonishing and far superior to A Million Little Pieces--overrated that it is. No gimmicks needed here--the pain, the compassion, the revelation of a remarkable woman who has truly lived two lifetimes in one. I wanted to hug her at the end and thank her for helping so many who've been in the trenches and survived.
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Format: Hardcover
To be human is to desire - and to thirst for what is good and lasting is no small part of that desiring. I think it is all about thirsting for God. All of us go through fits and starts in trying to quench that thirst. Some of us may write about it and when that happens, the words, if they "work," share with the lucky reader the deepest sharing that is possible in life - for they invite us to taste something of God. This book works. Ms. King has written a wondrous memoir of her longing for God - and how she allowed him to find her. In her moves from thirst to thirst, she gets her life back, finds God in the process, and then goes on to share that with us. And that is what great writing is all about - thank you, Heather.
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Format: Paperback
I didn't get into this book immediately. It was a slow, simmering process, where in the end I was holed up in bed, tucked under the covers intensely absorbing every word. I often read in the sunshine...out on my porch, in the swing. This time, I found the sunny blue skies interrupting the desperate mood of the book. Reading in bed, late at night, in the quiet dark of the house, I allowed myself to fully feel this journey.

I was able to put myself in the bars, in the restaurants, the author's life. One thing I appreciated about the story, was that the author was able to get me there, to let me feel the pain, without the gratuitous details of her sex & drug life.

In the end, the author writes of grace: "I just know that only a God of inexhaustible love, infinite creativity, and a burning desire to count every last one of us in could have taken a broken-down wreck like me and made something useful of her."

Thank you, Heather King, for sharing your story.
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