The Heart and Other Monsters

Bloomsbury USA. Jul. 2020. 224p. ISBN 9781635575149. $24. MEMOIR
Andersen creates a loving yet harrowing portrait of her younger sister Sarah, whose spiral into addiction and eventual death by overdose continues to haunt her. As with many memoirs centering on drug abuse, reading this one feels like watching a slow-motion car crash. Deception, theft, promiscuity, multiple abortions, broken promises, and false starts in rehab abound. The author also struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction at a young age and achieved sobriety, as well as surviving Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The sisters’ childhood was colored by confusion and instability, with an alternately absent and emotionally manipulative father and a controlling and abusive stepfather. Andersen remains convinced that her sister may have been deliberately given a fatal dose of methamphetamine to silence her, based on what she knew about a potential murder. It matters little to the reader, as Sarah was clearly bent on self-destruction. The court case involving the murder is tacked on, with characters that lack context or meaning for the narrative.
VERDICT Andersen’s genuine love for her sister is compelling; many readers will relate.
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