Picks and Pans Review: Dreaming: Hard Luck and Good Times in America

updated 03/20/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/20/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Carolyn See

I'm the only one around here who drinks anymore," says Carolyn See near the end of her searching, ruthlessly honest memoir. "But I like to sit out back and...after or during a third glass of chardonnay...dream a little bit about my family."

Indeed, drinking and dreaming are inextricably linked in See's family, which has been in America "since before the Revolution." From a grandfather who died of alcoholism to a father who got sober in AA, to a boozy mother and a sister who became a drug dealer and addict, See's family is most remarkable for having survived at all, much less endured to ask the question: "How did we get so lucky?"

Luck doesn't seem, on the surface, to have much to do with alcoholism, multiple divorce, drug addiction or suicide. But See, author of five novels including Making History and Golden Days, has managed to forge a work of beauty from her loss. Dreaming is a testament to the way a family can rise above its circumstances and seek its own particularly elusive redemption. After all, she writes, "there's something to be said for free fall, the wild life. It's ruined us but it's helped save us too." (Random House, $23)

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