Not long ago, I got wind of a recovery-themed novel: Detroit Muscle, written by Jeff Vande Zande.I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I read a book from cover to cover, especially one purely for pleasure. But, as any writer will tell you (even me, I guess, since I AM a WRITER, and all), if you’re gonna write, you need to also read. I’m really glad that this is the book with which I broke my fast!
Jeff Vande Zande paints a picture of an Oxycontin addict, fresh out of rehab, in (you guessed it) Detroit. After 3 months in an out-of-state rehab facility, Robby comes back to Detroit to try to continue the reparations he began in rehab. It’s not easy. Not even a little bit.
One after another, as Robby attempts to make amends, he finds that the bridges he’d burned (girlfriend, boss, etc.) had been demolished, filled in and then paved over with blacktop.
In Detroit Muscle, the writer paints an accurate picture of some of the landmines that often await newly sober addicts, when they return to their home town. Striving to continue growing into a different person from whom they had been before can be a tricky job, when all that they’ve ever known was those people, those places, that pain, and using as the only way out.
There is so much to talk about in this book – the tentative relationship being rebuilt with his Mom, and then the welcome from his Granddad…I just don’t know where to begin. So I won’t.
I will, however, share with you the e-conversation I had with the author, and tell you that I think you ought to read it and then get another copy to share with someone else that has ANY connection to an addict.
It will be helpful to anyone who cares about someone struggling with an addiction, whether parent, employer, child, spouse, or friend. It will be particularly helpful if the recovering addict is newly clean and sober.
So, without any further adieu, here’s the first part of my conversation with Jeff Vande Zande, the author of Detroit Muscle.
1.What inspired you to write this book, now?
I started Detroit Muscle four years ago. As I recall, at the time, I wanted to write a story, oddly enough, about Michigan. As a state, Michigan is going through a kind of rehab/recovery from its addiction to the auto industry. Right now, the state is trying to figure out what it’s going to be…trying to blaze its path now that it has somewhat detoxed from the auto industry. So, when I first wrote Robby, my protagonist, I imagined him as a symbol for this new Michigan.
Of course, as I wrote the novel, I realized that Robby couldn’t just be a symbol for Michigan. He had to be a fully developed person. I needed to deal with him as a young man in early recovery from OxyContin addiction. As I wrote and researched his character, I started to understand the epidemic of addiction that’s going on in the country. It was then that I became much more interested in Robby as a symbol of hope, redemption, and recovery in the face of addiction.
2.Which of the characters do you most relate to?
I suppose each of the characters has some aspect to them that I relate to. I understand Robby’s mother, and her desire to support her child in early recovery … but then also her helplessness in the face of it all. I like the grandfather’s approach to the world and his belief that hard work will somehow redeem people. I guess what I relate to most about all of these characters is how they each have a troubled past. That’s the way for so many people … living in the present means always dealing with our past.
(The answer to this one surprised me! Going by the details of this characters, it seems like this guy has some experience in this sort of thing!)
3. Are any of the situations Robby finds himself in, taken from your early recovery?
Well, I’ve never been in recovery, which I’m sure might be surprising, considering that I chose to write about a young man in early recovery. I am very aware of the possibility of alcoholism in me since it was fairly prevalent on both sides of my family. I am always aware of myself and my relationship to alcohol. I watch to make sure that I’m not using it as a crutch.
So, the situations that Robby is in are specific to him. About the only thing Robby and I have in common is that we both worked for an outdoor painting company.
Crazy, right? Oh, wait. You probably haven’t read it yet, huh? Oh…well, SPOILER ALERT: it seems like a recovering person must’ve writtne this book. Or maybe he just wants to remain anonymous. Hmmmm. The world may never know. I think if it were me, I’d be flattered and a little unsettleed if someone wondered if I might be a “closet” recovering person. But, hey, I’m a little unsesttled whenever anyone talks about me, for any reason.
ANYWAY, please be sure to check back here tomorrow to read the second half of this informative and mysterious interview! And, I’m really hopeful that you will come back here after you’ve read Detroit Muscle and let me know what YOU think!
Posted from my hut in the forest.