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Review: “Go: A Memoir about Binge-Drinking, Self-Hatred, and Finding Happiness”

As you know, I’ve been exploring the world of memoirs of all kinds, none of which are more poignant than those surrounding childhood and disruptive family dynamics. The memoir of Jessica Bell — singer, writer, publisher, designer — is among those.

I just posted the following review on Goodreads, but wanted to share the piece here, knowing only too well how many of us have struggled with sizable demons and appreciate hearing about those like Jessica who emerge from the fight both stronger and happier.

Tense and Intense Honesty

To read Jessica Bell’s memoir “Go” is to wish you could save her, even though you suspect by her rebellious nature she wouldn’t change anything about her life. That if asked, she’d say every moment in her colorful, yet chaotic youth made her the dynamic person she came to be.

With unbelievable courage and honesty, Ms. Bell, the singer of Keep Shelly in Athens, tells of every twist in the road of growing up the daughter of Erika Bach, who with her second husband, Demetri Vlass, formed two iconic indie bands in Australia during the 1980s and 1990s (see Hard Candy).

Just as her mother doesn’t conform to the ideal of a suburban mum, so the author doesn’t fit into normal kid society from the moment she enters school. In heartbreaking detail, the author goes on to describe the various agonies that befall her, from bullying to rape, binge-drinking to suicidal thoughts.

What really makes her adolescence intolerable, though, is the pain of growing distant from her beloved mother, who falls prey to an unintended painkiller addiction she eventually kicks. Of the many dramatic moments in the book, those between mother and daughter are the most touching. Fortunately the tightness of their early bond proves strong enough to keep them reaching for one another during the darkest times, giving testimony to the resiliency of human connections despite great duress.

The book ends on the high note promised by the title. When the author finally finds her niche among the high school theater and music crowd, her life shifts from aimless and abusive to one dedicated to music, writing and the same creativity that flowed through her home since birth. From there the book launches toward optimism of the kind only borne from acknowledging the cold, hard truth of the part we play in our own demise.

I’m so glad Ms. Bell had the courage, spirit and strength to fight through the hard times to one day shine her bright light on the world!


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