Men-ipulation, the first volume of Men Wars, by Monica Sarli is a memoir concerning Sarli's life as an addict. The book is a critical and honest account of Sarli's life as she struggles with a number of addictions; the most critical one being a fifteen year long heroin addiction.
Sarli's story starts in 2007 at the emergency room. After that she goes back in time to her childhood in order to introduce us to her life. From that time on the story develops as she gets older, meets her husband Steve and falls into addiction.
The book is filled with grim realities from the very beginning. Sarli grew up in a household filled with alcoholism and violence. From an early age she experienced sexual abuse by an adult male neighbor who used his authority and status in order to manipulate and molest Sarli and her younger sister. The story then jumps to Sarli and her husband as they are deep in heroin addiction, spending time with dangerous drug dealers, doing everything they can to maintain their addiction and life style.
The story deals with a number of visits to different treatment centers, trips to the hospital and involvement with the FBI in order to testify against a well known drug dealer, all while their addiction is spiraling out of control.
After a crucial evening Sarli decides to get clean and enroll her and her husband in treatment, in which she is successful. They move to a new area, start new careers and get involved in charity. All seems perfect until Sarli discovers that her husband is not maintaining his sobriety and is also cheating on her.
The book is truly fascinating and interesting as it describes the mind of two addicts. It not only depicts heroin addiction but discusses the married couple's addiction as it becomes more unmanageable and an integral part of their marriage. The book is honest about family and friend relationships and deals with many aspects of trauma and abuse. It discusses Sarli's responsibility to cover up her husband's addiction, clean up after his binges, remain in good contact with family and dealers, and most importantly, make sure that her husband stays alive. It therefore adds a level of complexity to the story, instead of just describing the couple's addiction to drugs.
What is so interesting about this book, and what makes it well written, is the feeling of complete honesty from the writer to the reader. It deals with many types of emotions such as love, trust, hopelessness, fear, shame and pride. It also shows the complexity of addiction, especially addiction in a marriage or in a relationship.
There are very few negatives about this book as a whole. My only criticisms would be the fact that the stories are at times not as well balanced as they could be. Some chapters linger a bit while other are short and can leave the reader wanting more detail or wanting to know more about a specific event. It would also have been interesting to hear more about how Sarli fights to maintain her sobriety. The book does not really mention much about withdrawal or cravings, which must have been an issue after fifteen years of addiction. Other than that the book is well written with splashes of dark humor.
This book is interesting to read in itself, without prior knowledge of addiction, because it is fascinating and attention-grabbing while providing truthful accounts of life as an addict. It would be suitable for an older audience since it is full of mature language and scenes. The book would be of interest both to individuals that have experience with addiction and to those who have not, and it therefore suits a wide audience.
© 2012 Elin Weiss
Elin Weiss has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a Master's Degree in Women's Studies from University College Dublin, Ireland.