The Splendid Things We Planned

splendidthingsweplannedIf you have an interest in memoirs about addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, or anyone who is just generally self-destructive, this book has it all!  In Splendid Things, author Blake Bailey, known for his biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates, tells the story of his own family.  While Bailey is truly open and honest in his depiction of both his own chaotic life and that of his parents; his father Burck, a lawyer from Oklahoma and his narcissistic, German-born mother Marlies,  the memoir primarily focuses around his brother Scott, an undiagnosed, mentally ill addict and alcoholic.

Bailey takes us on a journey that begins when he is the awkward teenager and Scott is the golden boy, fair-haired and handsome; to their downward fall afterward, when they both struggle with addiction.  All the while the entire family is going through their own personal turmoil.  Finally, everyone finds their place; everyone but Scott, who continues to struggle with whatever demons he may have.

A quote from the father describes the book’s message best:  “When a child is young you can catch him if he falls.  Then he gets a little older and falls from a higher place.  Maybe you can still catch him.  But finally he’s a full-grown adult and falls off the top of a building then you have to decide: either get out of the way or be crushed.”

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