Picks and Pans Review: Adult Children of Alcoholics Remember

updated 10/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

edited by E. Nelson Hayes

Hayes, a former college professor, has assembled 17 testimonies, including his own, from adults who grew up with at least one alcoholic parent. Their stories tell what it was like to be in a dysfunctional family and how that early pain continues to affect their lives.

The writers vary in age and background (most have elected anonymity). Some grew up to be alcoholics themselves, some abstained. All carry scars. There are recollections of violence and incest, but just as often the damage was purely psychological—achieved by casting the children into uncertainty and chaos, by withholding affection and attention or by subjecting them to withering anger and criticism.

Because these people knew they were writing for publication, the tone is often too literary or clinical. But their pain spills out: "Physical affection was never shown. My parents rarely touched or hugged us. They kissed only to say hello and never touched or hugged each other." "For as long as I could remember I had been angry—it seemed to be the only emotion I could get in touch with." "Looking at all these people and their lives, including mine and my children's, I see that we all have been badly affected, our relationships severely damaged by this heritage of anger, blame and silence, and lack of attention paid." One of the strongest chapters is by a member of Al-Anon (the organization for relatives of alcoholics). It delineates how he approaches each of the Twelve Steps of the recovery program, which combines a spiritual approach with cold, constant self-appraisal.

Remember is uneven. Yet the accounts of 17 people telling how alcohol warped their lives can't help but make an impact, if only to show how this disease, sadly, takes all kinds. (Harmony, $17.95)

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