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Hardcover Never Let Me Down Book

ISBN: 0805044299

ISBN13: 9780805044294

Never Let Me Down

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Book Overview

As a child, I didn't know that my father and many of the musicians who sat with their wives in our living room, eating nuts and raisins out of cut-glass candy dishes, were junkies. At the age of... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Thin premise; fabulous book

When I read that author Susan J. Miller was devastated to learn her father had been a heroin addict, I thought this a slender premise on which to build a memoir. After all, haven't we heard just about everything about abusive parents, addiction, and that word that no longer means anything, "co-dependency?"Instead, I found a "must read" and life-changing book. Ms. Miller writes in a straightforward prose without pretention, refreshing after the overly self-conscious styles that too often find their way into novels or memoirs. She leads the reader through the "unpeeling of the onion," as it's called in recovery circles, where layer after layer of the past are pulled off, only to reveal another.Skillfully, Ms. Miller lets the reader participate in this process as the horrors progress. She is never self-pitying. One senses that her recovery will continue for the rest of her life, and she offers a snapshot of half of that life, the rest, one hopes, to be lived in a grander richer way. For example, she seems unaware that although her father stopped using heroin when she was thirteen, he continued to use addictive drugs up until his death (the morphine to quell the pain of dying not included.) She also seems unaware that all addicts are completely self-involved, her father no different, thus rendering more sad her longing at his deathbed for a little more than "no lo contendere." Addicts tend to see and treat the world as an extension of themselves, and to treat their children as if the child is the parent and must care for the addicted adult. As one addict told me, "Heroin is my mother, my father, my child, my God." The addict never really change. It is refreshing to hear Ms. Miller's honesty that she does not regret her father's death. By the time one has been ripped into shreds by an addict parent, death is a relief.Ms. Miller spares herself no step in mourning. She gazes steadfastly at the ruins and horror of her childhood, and she heals. Subtle as this memoir is, I would rather recommend this book to adult children of addicts than chirpy and cliche-filled self-help guidebooks (although they too have their place.) In Miller's memoir, I finally understood the effect of addiction on children.

A Hard Life

Ms. Miller's childhood was extremely hard. Her father was a self-centered and self-centered junkie. He didn't even see his family as real people who had their own thoughts and feelings. Her mother tried the best she could to do the right thing. But it was wrong to keep the family together. She need to leave him when the opportunnities arose but she chose to stay with her husband so she would be a 'good' wife and mother. She was paralyzed with indecision. It was important to her to be seen as 'good'. Maybe in the 1950's it was unthinkable to leave your husband or give up your kids to give them a better life. The worst part for Ms. Miller was the daily beatings that she suffered from her brother. How can you survive that unscathed? Ms. Miller wrote this without self-pity. Yet you can hear the emotions that she felt clearly in her beautiful prose. She doesn't talk much about her adult life beyond how she dealt with her panic attacks as an adult. I highly recommend this book to people who suffered during childhood to see that you can overcome it at least to some degree. Also for people who love someone who had a bad childhood to understand them better. Everyone should have a safe environment. Not only had Ms. Miller survived her childhood she has accomplished much in her life. An amazing feat!


While the plethora of recent books penned by victims may have inured some to the stories of pain that human beings inflict upon one another, few will be unmoved by Susan Miller's trenchant family memoir Never Let Me Down. Her story causes one to ponder again accidents of birth and marvel at the remarkable resiliency within us. Relating the secrets in her life very much as she must have unearthed them, the author cuts back and forth between childhood experiences and the agonizingly earned knowledge of adulthood - the awareness that her father was a 15-year heroin addict unable to love, and her mother, a withdrawn woman, was afraid to see the rage-driven brutality of her older brother, Aaron. Raised in an ever changing yet congruent series of oppressive New York City apartments during the 1950's, the youngest child of a window dresser whose friends were Birdland musicians - Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Al Cohn and George Handy, all junkies, Ms. Miller suspected nothing. She writes, "It wasn't until I was twenty-one, a college senior, that my father told me he had been a heroin addict, casually slipping that information into some otherwise unremarkable conversation." And then she knew that his addiction explained their acrid family relationships, their penuriousness, and their many moves. That knowledge, she remembers, "...not only brought uncertainty to every memory but was also the key to my past." Thus, with the aid of therapy, she begins to explore the murky labyrinth of her youth, reliving the gradual escalation of her brother's persecution from pokes to arm-twisting torture to throttling to sexual abuse. As an adult she tries to convince Aaron to see a therapist, insisting that he can find help but he refuses. "That was how it was," she writes, "He couldn't imagine himself as anything but lost, and I always saw myself as on the way to being found." That may have been her life raft. Nonetheless, for Ms. Miller "being found" was an arduous journey. She learned that dysfunction in her family had spanned three generations. Her father's mother, Esther, hated men. This grandmother so detested her own son that she never displayed a photo of him in her home, she ignored him in her will, saying he was no good, yet lavished affection on Sarah, his sister. Sarah learned her lesson well, boasting that she could get her husband to do what she wanted by refusing to sleep with him. Ms. Miller recalls, "Her husband, the manager of an A & P, could not afford the fancy dresses and shoes that were stuffed into my aunt's closet, but each visit, newly acquired items were brought out for display. You could have such treasures, too, Sarah advised my mother, if you just played your cards right." A victim, too, Ms. Miller's father lay on his death bed and admitted that he did not know how to love. To a degree, that may have explained his treatment of her but there was more pain to come: when a social worker asked him what he would miss most when

Brilliant and literary

In telling her riveting story, Miller invents a new, jazz-like, rhythm and sentence--riffing far away from the moment into its meaning, and then careening back. Her clear eye and psychological precision are breathtaking. I couldn't put it down--nor could the several people I've given this to!

a life retold as it is rebuilt

So engorged has the memoir field become with gothic tales of apparently normal families that it¹s tempting to read Miller¹s book and think: Not another description of growing up with a father who is a monster of self-absorption, a mother who is lost, uncertain, uninvolved, an older brother who beats his sister and forces her to have incestuous sex. What saved Miller was her determination to tunnel her way to the roots and depths, to find what made her family ³four people so unhappy, so angry, so unable to help one another, to make anything work out, as if we all had been hit in the head, walking around stupid and enraged.² What saves the book and lifts it well above the psychobabble it readily could have become is the level of Miller¹s analysis and intuition, the remarkable quality of her insight -- the kinds of observations that make you gasp like reading good poetry does.She starts by putting the central piece of the puzzle in place. Her father, a jazz fan and friend of some of the outstanding musicians on the New York scene in the Œ40s and Œ50s, casually told her when she was a senior at Bennington that he had been a heroin addict for 15 years, starting when her mother was pregnant with her older brother Aaron. The way he drops his admission into conversation says as much about him as does the fact of his addiction, a habit which left Miller¹s mother immobilized with fear and caused the family to move from one depressing apartment and frightening marginal neighborhood to another in Manhattan and in New Jersey. More to the point, the instability made young Susan the only parent in the family. ³My two jobs, being hit by my brother, and listening to my mother...required skill.²Miller goes back and forth in time, telling her story in vignettes. She avoids martyring herself and demonizing her family. This is how it was, she writes, in a detached but vivid manner. Rational by day she grew up flooded with survival instinct that left her sleepless at night. What if there¹s a fire? A prowler? Lying in bed, she thinks she¹ll never have a child, that it¹s irresponsible to make another person go through childhood.Once she learned that her father had been a heroin addict when she was growing up ³The parts of the story were all around me, words flung on the floor, the gibberish I had been talking, but the difference was that now I might be able--I had to be able-- to pick up the words and put them together with other words, memories, feelings, and they might, they had to, make sentences, make a history, make sense.² She thinks about the Yeats line, ³In dreams begin responsibilities.² She thinks back, to the ponderous prewar apartment they lived in from the time she was five until she was nine, a place she knew was evil. She thinks ahead, to how she has to confront her father, tell him he is making impossible demands on her, drawing all the air out of the room, out of her life.Not for Miller the easy consolation of fiction and film. No s
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