Seemingly immune to humiliation, Sarah Hepola recounts in Blackout (June 2015), a memoir of excessive drinking and gross lack of judgment, her journey through the rigors of alcohol abuse. The Paris incident was positively chilling in how far her disconnection extended in that state.
Hepola defines herself as a blackout drunk, offering up a definition and going on to describe exploit after exploit where she acts reprehensibly, forgets much of her antics, and walks away from each episode seemingly unscathed—only to rinse off and repeat the process over and over again.
Friends fill in many of the missing holes in her memory, though I marveled how this woman had any friends at all during the time she drank. Hepola comes across as one of the most self-centered and exhausting people on the planet, much like a Sex and the City’s self-indulgent and wasted Carrie (sorry SJP).
Hepola herself alludes to the lack of personality development that comes with starting to drink heavily at a young age (in her case I believe it was 12 or 13) and that sums up her stunted personality perfectly, lasting throughout her twenties and thirties until she finally stopped drinking altogether.
The hard and embarrassing parts seemed to have been lived and repeated even before the book was written, so penning a tell-all of this magnitude felt somewhat anti-climactic. Hepola mentions several times the lifelong goal of her becoming a published book author. Her motivation behind publishing this book seems somewhat suspect. I did not get a sense of catharsis or a desire to help others but more that she bought into the notion that this was a story she had to tell and happened to have the connections to pull it off.
Hepola fails to offer up the insights and knowledge that Caroline Knapp did in Drinking: A Love Story, though the two books have been recently compared. Throughout most of this book, I struggled mightily to find anything about Hepola to like. Even fictional characters such as The Girl on the Train’s Rachel and Blame: A Novel’s Patsy, both blackout drinkers, inspired fondness in spite of their shortcomings.
Hepola’s early days of sobriety are the mark of a fragile fledgling fighting to find its way. She tackles sober online dating emerging into face-to-face dating and restrings fragile relationships suffering from years of her neglect. It’s as if she learned how to be a fully evolved human being all over again.
After nearly giving up hope of any kind of redemption, about eighty percent of the way through Blackout, Hepola’s voice changed for the better. Finally, I could see the person behind the booze. The arrogant mask slipped away and a real face emerged. This for me, was the turning point and the take away.
There are far better books to read of this genre, both fiction and nonfiction. I don’t believe this story will advance what we know about women and excessive drinking, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Hepola emerged as worthy of her loyal support system. For that, I’m glad I saw it through till the end.
Reviewed by Maria Ryan
Check out our Book Addict Inspirations on Pinterest!