The first two-thirds of Blackout are simply extraordinary. Ms. Hepola’s electric prose marks her as a flamingo among this genre’s geese. She has direct access to the midnight gods of torch songs, neon signs, tap beer at a reasonable price, cigarettes and untrammeled longing.
[Blackout is] as lyrically written as a literary novel, as tightly wound as a thriller, as well-researched as a work of investigative journalism, and as impossible to put down as, well, a cold beer on a hot day.
For all the wresting with hard truths, Hepola is a funny writer, and the book is shot through with black humor ... While few may share Hepola's experiences with blackout drinking, many are likely to identify with the complex of feelings behind it. In this account of the years when she felt most alone, she reminds us that we are not.
Her drunken adventures are harrowing (and sometimes funny), and the hold alcohol had over her life is terrible and strong. Still, what could have been just a string of flippant, obnoxious drunken war stories followed by redemption (she does get dry, eventually) is made riveting by one thing: her writerly voice. Tough and street-smart (and a little vulnerable), honest (as far as I can tell), she’s sassy and funny, mouthy and flip, hard on herself and without a shred of self-pity.
With this memoir, Hepola, now many years sober, conducts a fierce moral inventory of her life, an unblinking examination of the insecurities, the vanity, and the wounds that made her drink. Blackout is not without flaws. Hepola’s guilelessness means there will be no artistry in her prose, and too many pages are spent on her childhood in Dallas, where she experienced the usual feelings on preteen alienation and developed a preternatural taste for beer. Her life experiences may not be remarkable in that they are shared by many, but her hard-earned self-awareness is.
...an empathetic dissection of addiction and American drinking culture, and the blurry lines between the two. Hepola conveys both the horror in the mysteries left after a night smudged dark by drinking, and the draw of overdrinking that kept her carving out her memory with alcohol.
It’s hard to think of another memoir that burrows inside an addict’s brain like this one does. Yes, Hepola’s years of ruthless self-destruction are grim. But her writing lights up the pages, and she infuses the chapters describing her resolute slog toward sobriety with warmth and sprightly humor.
[Hepola] is eloquent in her honesty as she traces her wild days from the perspective of newfound sobriety. Alcohol was 'not a cure for pain,' she now sees, 'it was merely a postponement.' Like Caroline Knapp’s powerful 1996 memoir Drinking: A Love Story, Blackout is not preachy or predictable: It’s an insightful, subtly inspiring reflection by a woman who came undone and learned the very hard way how to put herself back together.
Blackout is not all about Hepola sleeping with strangers, though. It’s so much more than that. It’s a poignant and revealing look into the mind of an alcoholic that lets the reader experience all of the raw emotions the author feels during her struggles. It’s a tale of friendships and how they evolve—and devolve—over the years. Best of all, though, it’s a success story ... Blackout is one of the best memoirs I’ve read. Like Kristen Johnston’s GUTS: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster, it treats a sensitive subject with unbridled honesty and humor.
...the only moments where I was frustrated by the focus on blackouts were early in the book. Hepola rushes through her childhood to get to the drinking years, not pausing long to reflect on the events along the way. Later, when she brings her dazzlingly brilliant introspection to bear on her adult years, it made me wish that she had given as much attention to the parts of her life less connected to her alcoholism ... I wanted more because when she does take time to fully investigate an aspect of her life, it’s exquisite and raw and intensely funny, teetering on the verge of heartbreaking ... Blackout is an enthralling interrogation of a life. Even the most banal moments are beautiful, elevated, and resonate across the human experience.