In St. Augustine’s Confessions (one of the first spiritual memoirs), he famously prayed “Lord, make me good, but not yet.” In his powerful, visceral new memoir, celebrity journalist Kevin Sessums, like a modern St. Augustine, testifies to the life-threatening pull between carnality and spirituality in his own life.
Readers of his best-selling 2007 memoir Mississippi Sissy will recall Sessums’ Southern Gothic origins: growing up gay in the Civil Rights era, the death of both parents by the time he was 9 and molestation by a trusted preacher. Lurking behind that story, however, is the one Sessums documents in I Left It on the Mountain. Even as he interviews celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Daniel Radcliffe, Sessums descends into the hell of crystal meth addiction.
His new memoir chronicles how the twin strands of bodily addiction and spiritual transcendence shape his life. But the path toward healing, both physical and spiritual, is neither smooth nor linear. He climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro, only to return to New York and the temptations of drugs and anonymous sex. Desperate to escape his addiction, he turns to a spiritual pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
His descriptions of the angels and devils he encounters on the Camino are transporting and hallucinogenic, as mystic visions must be. But even with powerful goodness surrounding him, Sessums boomerangs from the visionary to the squalid as he hits bottom with drug use and its consequences.
Ultimately a story of redemption and grace, I Left It on the Mountain is a spiritual memoir—albeit one with appearances by Courtney Love and Jessica Lange, earthly angels who walk by Sessums’ side.
RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with author Kevin Sessums.