This is a powerful book. Not only did the author have to have "used personal experience" to write this book, she had to have lived the life of an addict or a co-dependent to get the tone of this tale exactly right.
I have a brother who went through drug addiction, and I watched my mother live the life of the mother in this book. Watching the addicted person ruin his life is bad enough, but also having to watch the decline of the co-dependent in the relationship is doubly bad because you feel like they have the power to step away from the craziness. In reading this book I think Ms. Howard has adequately presented the case that the co-dependents are as much addicts as the ones addicted to the narcotic.
I also was intrigued by the character of Aaron -- the second brother. I was never sure whether his demons were exacerbated by narcotics/alcohol or whether he was just struggling with the inheritance of mental illness. In any case, the descriptions of his reactions to the brother, father and mother were reminiscent of some of my own (if you take away the cloudiness of drugs/mental illness!)
The mother, Del, was strangely able to draw a line in the sand with helping Aaron, even with his obvious mental problems. She refused to help him buy a car and pay for his schooling unless he was able to contribute in part to those things. Why did this mother see this son differently ... who knows? But I can tell you my mother saw my brothers and sisters differently than she did my addicted brother too. She had the same all inclusive see-no-wrong view with my addicted brother as Dell did, while the rest of us were expected to stand on our own two feet, did so nicely, and thank God every day we did. That is the role of the parent -- to prepare a child for life not to live that life for them. Most of learning is done by living through mistakes ... a co-dependent doesn't let the object of her attention live through mistakes, and thus they are incapable of functioning on their own.
The character, Richard, the mother's significant other, was right on target for how an outsider sees the madness of a family caught up in this merry-go-round. I was struck by his patience and his strong love for Del in his willingness to continue to offer her solace despite his disgust with her inability to walk away from a toxic situation. I thought he offered insight on how you can still love someone in this situation but distance yourself from the madness ... create boundaries. Even with his boundaries he lost the comfort of having her with him as he went through the most difficult time of his life ... and how that affected his willingness to continue to be a part of what was happening.
This isn't a light beach read. It is a serious look at addiction and how it affects a family. I thought it was extremely well written. I think counselors wanting to help co-dependents should have them read this book. It is a cold shock to be reading this and realize you lived this story. I believe it will help friends and families of addicts take a step back and try to save themselves and learn they cannot save the addict. The addict has to save the addict in order NOT to be an addict.
Rated of 5
by Rachelle (Chicago IL)
I found this to be a great read. As a mental health professional I found myself reading a story that I've seen play out more than once with families I've worked with. Del, the enabling mother struggling to want to give her son "tough love" but also wanting to just protect him a little longer. Mark, lost in a world of drugs, self medicating his mania, struggling to find a way out only to fall back into all of it. This is not a "light" novel, its dark and angsty and angry and anxious and you will quickly find yourself drawn into their world.
Rated of 5
by Kari (Oslo )
A very realistic and interesting book
I really liked this book. Both the mother's and son's voices felt very realistic. It is written in a way that takes you along on the same emotional roller-coaster that are described in its pages. I have some experience with mental illness, and also with alcoholism/AA, both through my husband's family. That made me recognize certain things in the book, like how Mark kept trying, failing, trying again, and how his mother always ended up being there for him, no matter how agonizing. I don't think you need to have any experience with mental illness/chemical abuse to enjoy this book, but I feel that it added depth to the whole reading experience.
Rated of 5
by Julie (Rancho Palos Verdes CA)
Not an easy read
If you are looking for a light, easy read, this isn't your book. This is a fabulous book that seems so true to life because the author lived it.
As the wife of a recovering addict (my husband was 2 years sober when we met), there were so many painful parts to this story. Ginnah Howard digs deep and comes out with a fantastic, realistic story about living with an addict, loving an addict, being an addict and dealing with mental illness.
You won't be disappointed in this one.
Rated of 5
by Patricia (Yankton SD)
Astounding First Novel Night Navigation is a powerful novel from an accomplished first novelist. Writing in the alternating voices of the mother, Del, and her 32 year old son Mark, Howard adds to reader involvement. I was pulled into the skillfully drawn maternal co-dependency, which is part of most mother-child relationships. The authors writing style of short, choppy sentences in the Mark sections echoes his manic mind state. Having a daughter who is bi-polar and alcohol and drug dependent, the manipulation of the addict is well known to me.
Though this at first seems a dark novel, there are instances of humor which lighten the drama and make the characters and situations real. Her use of imagery, the careful filling of the coffee pot, the struggle with the bats, Marks paranoia about crows, all rise to symbolic significance and add depth to the novel.
I thoroughly enjoyed Night Navigation, and am looking forward to the authors second novel.
Rated of 5
by Sheryl (DeQuincy LA)
This book, about a mother and son moving through their respective recoveries from co-dependence and drug addiction, is painfully raw and true to life. Although a "novel", there is no doubt left in the reader's mind at the end of the book that the author knows whereof she speaks. For me, it was one of those books that mesmerized and intrigued me but that I could only read a little at a time. As a licensed social worker, I was impressed that the author captured even the small details of the addiction recovery process accurately. Doing that in such beautiful, concise, and poetic clarity is nothing short of amazing.
Rated of 5
by Debi (Charleston SC)
This book was very hard for me to read because of the content, but yet it was extremely hard to put down. It was so easy to get involved in the lives of Del and Mark. To me the book was just as addictiive as Mark's addition to his drugs. I love getting totally involved in a book and I did with this one. Through Ginnah Howard's wonderfully sensitive writing, I was able to experience the same emotional ups and downs the characters experienced, from anger to love, from hope to disappointment, from steadfast loyalty to wanting to walk away.
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