cover image Double Double: A Dual Memoir of Alcoholism

Double Double: A Dual Memoir of Alcoholism

Martha and Ken Grimes. Scribner, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4767-2408-9

With its title taken from a line spoken by the three witches in Macbeth, this prickly, wildly uneven memoir is ostensibly about years of excessive drinking by the celebrated mystery author and her son. In alternate sections, the mother-son team describe their respective struggles with alcohol. Yet while Martha’s segments reveal a truly thoughtful artist wrestling with the internal, nearly metaphysical contradictions posed by drinking, her son, Ken—who attended his mother’s alma mater, the University of Iowa, and then hooked into PR jobs in publishing—comes off as arrogant and entitled, drinking and smoking to anesthetize the sense that he “never had enough.” Ken attended a 12-step AA program by his mid-20s, while mother Martha preferred detox at the Kolmac Clinic, among others. They have been clean for at least a few decades and their memories of the big peaks and troughs on alcohol are a little hazy. Ken’s sections are grounded in ham-fisted blowouts in bars and football games; while Martha’s are subtly calibrated depictions that suggest she will never be as seduced as she had been by the bottle. In the end, mother Martha simply asks why her son went “looking for safety in booze.” Despite several “conversations” that bring the two voices together, the metaphysical and the logistical 12-step are grating in this ill-focused work. (June)