cover image Note Found in a Bottle: My Life as a Drinker

Note Found in a Bottle: My Life as a Drinker

Susan Cheever. Simon & Schuster, $23 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-684-80432-3

""Like all alcoholics,"" Cheever (Home Before Dark) writes in this brutally frank memoir, ""I worshipped at the shrine of my own heart."" Having studied under her father, John Cheever, a master of alcohol, she was a true acolyte. In her childhood memories, home was a place where ""guests were always falling down the stairs,"" but she never thought much of it as she approached adulthood, braced by her grip on a trusty, eternally full glass. She drank in Alabama and Mississippi during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, in England and France in the 1970s and in New York City all the time. By her own account she was a spoiled, self-centered woman who knew that daddy's money could always be wired to her anywhere in the world. Alcohol warped her sense of judgment about men: she fell in love with a batterer and a perpetual ne'er-do-well drunkard and thought nothing of sleeping with three men in one day. Slowly she realized that she ""was a disaster waiting to happen."" With the birth of a daughter and a son she began to understand that ""drinking doesn't absolve anyone of responsibility."" As her drinking stopped, she also stopped ""manipulating men and thinking that other people's pain was funny"" and found a belief in God. Similar to Pete Hamill's A Drinking Life and Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story, this is a powerful story written in precise, emotionally intense prose. Although she doesn't go into the details of how she got sober, her story will be of invaluable assistance and support to those who are traveling the chilling road that seduced, then nearly killed Susan Cheever. (Jan.)