Stubborn, angry, and fresh out of treatment, Terry Manescu moves in with her friend, Angela, who takes her in provided Terry stays sober and contributes to the household. Terry at first doesn't realize the depths of her own pain and is facing a lot more problems than she can imagine fixing. She's got intelligence and guts going for her, but she's also got an attitude which has not entirely changed even with treatment and AA attendance. "Everyone with more sobriety than me thinks that they know what's best for me. AA is a conspiracy to rob me of my individuality and my intellect" (p. 14). She says this halfway tongue in cheek, even while at some level, Terry knows that she must change. She just isn't entirely sure how to go about it.
Though only 26, Terry has already been through a lot in her life. Through her own drunken rage, she lost the love of her life. She's got issues with her family, some of which are because she's lesbian, but also because she was such a wild girl, and her connections with her brothers and parents have been affected by all the lies and failures. She flunked out of school, ran with a fast crowd, and did a lot of risky things. She knows the addiction to drugs and alcohol is terrible for her health and well-being, but she for a long time she kids herself whenever her shortcomings become apparent to others or to her. "These insinuations about my ego just chap my ass," (p. 31) she says early on. This first-person narrator has got a comic voice at times, and the story she tells is, by turns, very funny and very heartbreaking.
It takes a long time and quite a number of mistakes before Terry starts to get her head on straight. For anyone who has ever been addicted, particularly to alcohol, or been around others struggling with the nightmare of drunkenness, every angle of her story rings true. When Terry finally admits that she "cannot take the pain of knowing that I can't trust myself, of knowing the rage and insanity that lurk within me, waiting for the next drink," (p. 122), a glimmer of hope can be found. She still has to hit bottom, learn to connect with others while not high, and figure out how to fashion a life worth living, but with that admission, she is starting to change.
Bufford opens each chapter with a quotation from the 12-Step world, and that's where the title of the book came from: "If there's a minus (step) one, that's where I'm at." But don't mistake this book to be about recovery only. It's a coming-of-age story, a love story, and an entertaining and engrossing journey through one woman's life. I couldn't put the book down and read it in one sitting. I highly recommend it. ~Lori L. Lake, author of lesbian fiction and freelance reviewer for Midwest Book Review, Golden Crown Literary Society's The Crown, The Independent Gay Writer, and Just About Write.