After years of hard-won sobriety, while rebuilding a life with his wife and young daughter, thirty-five-year-old Joshua Mohr suffers a stroke that uncovers a heart condition requiring surgery. Which requires fentanyl, one of his myriad drugs of choice. This forced “freelapse” should fix his heart, but what will it do to his sobriety? And what if it doesn’t work?
... heartbreaking ... As with all good memoirs, however, the author’s self-skepticism cuts ... More than a search for explanations within his personal history, the book probes shame’s role in addiction, the stories told to shore up the self ... Be aware that Model Citizen is harrowing. This is not a memoir that will hand you redemption in a neat package. It has a disquieting degree of honesty around addiction and parenting. I found this exhilarating ... intensely emotional sentences rub up against a painfully funny detail. It elucidates the contradictions within lived experience ... Lively surrealist moments erupt within Mohr’s consciousness ... You can feel Mohr reaching toward the outer limits of his psyche, but he’s also asking the reader: Am I getting this right? Are you feeling this pain and strangeness of living, too? ... Mohr begins to suffer strokes while in recovery. His heart is missing a wall and requires repair, an interesting metaphor because there is no wall, no self-protectiveness, in his language ... One of the many gifts of Joshua Mohr’s writing is that because it’s so unflinchingly specific, so in search of life, you realize that perhaps, regardless of your own particulars, you might not be alone ... The memoir’s complex, mottled epiphanies are hard-won. Model Citizen wrecked me and then, somehow, put me back together. San Francisco was lucky to have a chronicler this generous.
Mohr’s fiction has garnered comparisons to Charles Bukowski, and there’s a similar romantic urgency in his autobiographical storytelling, in the way his impulses lead him toward excess. 'You can be Henry Miller, and I’m Anaïs Nin,' his first wife says, a quote he repeats twice in the book. The repetition is a telling belief in the power of writing — or, more specifically, in the power of Mohr’s identity as a writer — to dredge clarity from self-reflection, no matter one’s transgressions. For much of Model Citizen, Mohr is a charismatic narrator, a role he relishes in life, too ... As a reader, I felt frustrated by the way Mohr pitches hard toward some emotionally tidy conclusions, and delicately pulls back from others ... Knowing that Model Citizen was conceived, in some part, as a potentially final literary document of Mohr’s life explains the gauzy, nostalgic patina tinting the entire text. He doesn’t regret anything because it all brought him here, to a place where he can attempt to live well even with the end in sight — a redemption story that’s easy to root for, if not always convincing to read. I hope he keeps writing for as long as he can.
... searing ... Mohr opens up about his alcoholism and drug use with the vigor of someone purging themselves of their darkest memories ... A potent mix of regret and resilience, Mohr’s story confronts his demons while finding a sliver of hope for a better life, however brief.