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Zailckas's unflinching candor and exquisite analytical eye gets to the meaning beneath the seeming banality of girls' getting drunk. She persuades us that her story is the story of thousands of girls like her who are not alcoholics-yet-but who use booze as a short cut to courage, a stand-in for good judgment, and a bludgeon for shyness, each of them failing to see how their emotional distress, unarticulated hostility, and depression are entangled with their socially condoned binging.
Like the contemporary masterpieces The Liars' Club, Autobiography of a Face, and Jarhead, Smashed is destined to become a classic. A crucial book for any woman who has succumbed to oblivion through booze, or for anyone ready to face the more subtle repercussions of their own chronic over-drinking or of someone they love, Smashed is an eye-opening, wise, and utterly gripping achievement.
A cautionary memoir
Koren Zailckas took her first drink at 14, had alcohol poisoning at 16, spent her undergraduate years binge-drinking or hung over, then sobered up for good at 23. Smashed, read here by Ellen Archer, is her moving, unflinching memoir of that "drunken girlhood." Written in spare, often poetic prose, it spares none of the devastating details of how girls use alcohol to remedy adolescent angst and anxiety. In audio form, Zailckas' tale has a mesmerizing quality that keeps you listening as her life spirals in and out of control in an excess of abuse. What's most disturbing, and what Zailckas makes explicit, is that this kind of destructive behavior is not unusual, nor is the cloak of denial that helps perpetuate it. Anyone with a teenage daughteranyone concerned with our futureshould pay close attention to this chronicle and learn from its candor and courage.