This review is part of a ParentBloggers book tour. Visit ParentBloggers for a chance to win a copy of The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here: Scenes from a Life!
To learn more about Felicia and her book, be sure to listen to the Motherhood Uncensored show featuring Felicia, I have a cameo as a caller.
The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here: Scenes from a Life is the newly released memoir by Felicia Sullivan, creator of the Writers Revealed podcast, among other projects. I have been lucky enough to work with on Writers Revealed, and which piqued my interest in her memoir. This is a book about Felicia living through her mother’s addictions and relationships, surviving a very difficult childhood, and then struggling with her own addictions. I have seen friends and family members struggle with addictions, and it was amazing to look into Felicia’s life and read a brutally honest account of living with addiction.
The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here: Scenes from a Life is a particularly apt title. Felicia uses scenes from her childhood mixed together with chapters that follow her adult life through her addiction and into her recovery. In doing so, the book gains depth, as we know some of the “why” behind Felicia’s troubles and addiction. We also see her incredible honesty as she bares her life and soul to the readers, displaying to the world her own wrongs and embarrassing times, which many people would bury. Felicia gives us a window into her world, and then pulls us through the window as we are caught between the memories and her current life.
Felicia worked hard to separate herself from her mother (at the time the book was written, she hadn’t been in contact for in 11 years), and at first I couldn’t grasp why she became an addict. My thoughts are mirrored in the discussions between Felicia and her friends as she is struggling with her own addictions. Felicia is determined not to become like her mother, but the cocaine calls to her:
you wonder how it is you got to this point. Because you told yourself in your bathroom that first time in December … with two rolled bills and neatly cut lines that you’d never be an addict like your mother because you survived the war that was her, because you convinced yourself you were stronger than she was. And then, there go the lines.
Felicia follows this quote a page later with a description of her feelings about cocaine. First, she describes it for her friend, and then she completes the description for the reader:
“It’s like Broadway up my nose,” I say.
What I fail to tell Emily is how many times I’ve tried it since. And although I savored my first glass of red wine and the many that followed, cocaine is different. I like — no, I love cocaine. I tolerate the nausea, the constant swallowing, the teeth grinding — anything for that rush when the world seems simple, beautiful, and large enough to fit me in.
When she is on cocaine, Felicia is able to escape “the awkward, stammering girl who never feels smart enough, white enough, pretty enough.” After struggling to fit in as a child, first alcohol and then cocaine give her the confidence to change her self-image. The change between shy, bullied child and self-confident writer and executive is so well written and well examed that the reader can truly grasp the impact addiction can have. If you are suddenly feeling a sense of self-worth, how do you give that up?
Felicia bares her soul, giving us a good long look at her life. She chronicles her own fight with addiction and mixes in childhood memories. The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here is not an easy read by any means – Felicia’s childhood experiences were not like those of the children of addicts I knew, well-fed and sheltered in the suburbs. These are vignettes of a year eating only potatoes, of shielding her eyes so she wouldn’t see cockroaches scurrying in the floor in front of her, of seeing her friend’s mother unconscious for 36 hours, and of taking her mother to the Emergency Room over and over. I have never read a book that pulled me so far into the real world of addiction; Felicia uses such intense detail when recounting the horrors she survived that I feel as if I was walking in her shoes beside her.
While Felicia has cut off contact with her mother, The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here isn’t a psychobabble “blame the mother for everything” book. It’s an intense look into the dark world of addiction. Readers will walk away from this book with a much deeper understanding of what it is like to be caught in the life of an addict, or caught in an addiction. I highly recommend The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here, to everyone, but especially for anyone who knows addicts or those recovering from addiction.