BookPage Nonfiction Top Pick, July 2015
Ah, alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems (to misquote “The Simpsons”). In Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, Sarah Hepola reveals the ugly side of addiction with humor and honesty. She writes gracefully of blackouts, junk food binges and unnerving sexual encounters. Along the way, she touches on loneliness and cats and hangovers and alternative weeklies. Although she claims that alcohol made her fearless, her true bravery emerges in this memoir’s witty candor.
A petite woman who can hold her liquor, Hepola’s drinking life is punctuated by gaps. How did she get home from the bar? Who is this man in bed with her? What did she say to make her friends so angry with her? A blackout is simply the hippocampus shutting down the long-term memory function in a drinker’s brain—which is why your drunk friend repeats the same story six times at the end of a long night. They may still be standing upright, but they won’t remember any of it tomorrow. Hepola proposes a “CSI Blackout” show for piecing together the night before; a junk food wrapper or a missing purse is a clue to the drunkard’s progress through the lost portions of the night.
While Hepola claims not to enjoy the part in sobriety memoirs where the narrator stops drinking, her own sobriety is as funny and fearless as her drinking days. She’s particularly good on the weirdness of dating while stone-cold sober, and the subtle process of recalibrating her friendships. Hepola is an admirable addition to the distinguished line of “drinkers with writing problems,” and Blackout is a rollicking and raw account of binge-drinking, blacking out and getting sober.