cover image My Heart is a Drunken Compass

My Heart is a Drunken Compass

Domingo Martinez. Lyons, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4930-0140-8

The follow-up to his first book, the Nation Book Award Finalist The Boy Kings of Texas, this work finds Martinez again mining his personal and family life for narrative gold. This time, instead of focusing on his border childhood he turns his attention to his adult life in Seattle, most notably his younger brother Derek's near fatal drunken fall and his ex-fianc%C3%A9's harrowing car accident that act as catalysts for an exploration of his own personal traumas%E2%80%94including his alcoholic tendencies and near-suicidal depression. Though Martinez's mischievous nature can still illicit a smile, the self-deprecating humor of the first book has mostly been replaced with self-loathing as the author continually realizes he is unable to help his loved ones because he more often than not refuses to help himself. However, the fact that he knows his issues and is able talk about them in such intricate prose ("My heart was a drunken compass even then, before I was a drunk.") allows this work to remain compelling despite the author's inability to change. As Martinez rides a rollercoaster of relapse and redemption, those who survive Martinez's self-inflicted wounds and hang on till the end are rewarded with a conclusion that's unlikely as it is uplifting. (Nov.)