cover image The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here

The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here

Felicia C. Sullivan, . . Algonquin, $23.95 (255pp) ISBN 978-1-56512-515-5

A poignant memoir by writer Sullivan palpates the wounds of growing up with an unstable, cocaine-abusing mother. The young narrator’s emotionally manipulative mother, Rosina, worked as a waitress at whatever Brooklyn diner hadn’t fired her yet for stealing from the cash box in order to feed the increasingly destructive cocaine habit she formed while living with her Israeli-born boyfriend, Avram. Sullivan grew up cringing in the shadow of her crass, chain-smoking mother, who moved from boyfriend to boyfriend, from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to upscale Valley Stream, Long Island. Sullivan tried hard to distinguish herself in school, despite drinking heavily as a teenager to ease social pressure and shoplifting to strike back angrily at her mother. Later, she explains, she fell into similar patterns of self-anesthetizing with cocaine and alcohol while grasping after a lucrative career in finance in her early 20s. Sullivan’s memoir cuts predictably back and forth in time and features some memorable types, such as needy early girlfriends whose mothers were as wacky as her own; junkie Aunt Marisol who died of an overdose; and her mother’s battering boyfriend Eddie. Putting herself through Fordham, then Columbia’s M.F.A. program hardly eased Sullivan’s pain, but the act of writing purges her memory. (Feb.)