...a self-lacerating memoir that spares nothing ... Mohr eschews formulas. He begins not with addiction and despair, but with a reflection on the dangers of relapse, the call of the Sirens. While most memoirists in this field focus on the stark contrast between active addiction and recovery, Mohr treats recovery as a very frightening, if joyful place ... It is Mohr’s astonishing accomplishment to show us how such a temptation is possible. He brings home the realization that all of us stand on the brink of despair ... His carefully crafted anecdotes are violent, often shocking or disgusting, and never played for a laugh. Sirens is poetic, touching, inspiring, and deeply empathic, but it is rarely funny. Instead, it seeks, with audacious honesty, to come to grips with the reality of relapse.
What’s good is that Mohr is too smart to show the journey of self as a simple before and after ... Mohr’s self-lacerating interiority is often at odds with reality. Others have a different perception of him, and Mohr is at his best when he shows an interplay between his reality and theirs ... Sirens gives a picture of Mohr’s life as a balancing act with real danger and consequences. In many ways the book feels incredibly alive. The prose moves fast. There’s nothing at all calcified or fossilized here, and Mohr makes himself likable and compelling and charming, with a real ear for fast-moving unsentimental language.
Joshua Mohr’s Sirens immediately earns a place on the list of great addiction memoirs, and then it gets better. Substance abuse, rationalizing, and guilt are the cohesive elements that bring Mohr’s personal narrative together, but failure, lost love, parenthood, the possibility of redemption, health issues, and a constant struggle against the monster of relapse are what ultimately turn this memoir a special reading experience and make it one of the most unapologetically searing and brutally honest nonfiction books indie publishing will see in 2017.
Finding the right balance between the author’s unquiet past and their more restrained condition nowadays can be difficult, but Mohr deftly juxtaposes multiple timelines while keeping things moving forward. And while Mohr’s experience with addiction informs the novel, there’s a lot more going on, from his complex family history to his formative experiences as a writer ... One of the standout aspects of Sirens is the way in which Mohr writes about physical damage, charting out the effects of various narcotics and blackouts on his system with the same haunting rigor that he does when discussing his health problems after becoming sober. It’s visceral in the most literal way, and it serves as a reminder for how effective this style can be when done well ... Sirens is a searing read, an illuminating trip (both metaphorical and literal) into its author’s mind and heart.
[Mohr is] the reason you read this book. If you've sampled any of his fiction you know the man can tell a story. This one just happens to be about himself. And it's a heart-breaker. The first book I read by Mohr was Damascus, back in 2011. According to his memoir, he was still struggling with his sobriety at the time. Naive me, I assumed he was all better, since he was a functioning novelist. But in reality, the struggle never ends, and it is Mohr's acceptance of that fact that infuses Sirens with melancholy, even as he navigates the unfamiliar territory of fatherhood. It's the type of brutal honesty that propels the reader forward, even though they are afraid to know the ending, one that most likely exists outside the confines of the book. Definitely pick this one up.