A. L. Kennedy, Author . Knopf $25 (283p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4364-4

When a dull neighbor asks Hannah Luckraft what she does for a living, Hannah can barely refrain from answering honestly: "Oh, a little theft, monstrosity, credit-card fraud, and my hobbies include giving blow jobs to unpleasant men while I'm semi-unconscious. I also drink a lot." With her fifth novel, Kennedy proves herself—again—to be a master of extracting searing beauty from patently ugly truths. Awash in whisky, 30-year-old narrator Hannah is the consummate professional screwup: she drinks with ferocity and harbors no pretenses about her self-destructive impulses or their horrendous consequences. Her wry, wary commentary has no right to be anything but gut-wrenchingly sad, yet her savage wit and chilling self-awareness transform even unspeakable misery into something howlingly funny. Blacking out becomes "master[ing] the art of escaping from linear time," rehab is reduced to "being slapped down into a grisly ring of pink Naugahyde armchairs and made to discuss [our] personal lives with a dozen emotional vampires" and paradise itself is revealed to be "an untouched bottle and the man who loves me, the man I love." Of course, Hannah knows that happiness can't last, so when a charming drunk named Robert stumbles into her life, her bed and her head, no one dares to hope for a happy ending. Their thirst for oblivion, sobriety and oblivion again is the story of paradise found and lost a thousand times over. "How it happens is a long story, always," but rarely is it so jaw-droppingly good as this. (Mar. 14)

Reviewed on: 02/21/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Open Ebook - 226 pages - 978-0-307-42721-2
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-09-943349-1
Paperback - 284 pages - 978-1-4000-7945-2
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4090-5818-2
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