Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dryland by Nancy Stearns Bercaw - TLC Book Review

Dryland: One Woman's Swim to Sobriety by Nancy Stearns Bercaw
• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: Grand Harbor Press (April 18, 2017)

Format? oversized paperback
Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours

FTC  Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Dryland from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a review; however, the comments and opinions in this review are my own.

Why?  the subject matter.  Addiction is an epidemic.  If we are ever going to help people, we have, above all I think, to get rid of the stigma associated with alcoholism.  We can do that if people tell their stories honestly as Nancy has done.

Title? Dryland - a culture that doesn't celebrate alcohol, a desert, fits.
Cover?  A woman in a swimsuit making sand angels...she doesn't fit in her environment...she's a fish out of water...mindlessly moving her arms and legs...

What Now?  I have several more memoirs on my TBR shelf about other women who've managed to wade through the alcohol in their lives and come out victorious on the other side.  I'll definitely get into them now. 

Golden Lines

I have one pill left - a single twenty-milligram dose of my antidepressant.  Unless I find a way to get a refill tomorrow, I'm in trouble. (1)

I preferred silence when it came to my relationship with alcohol. (4)

With ninety dollars in my pocket, a black string bikini, and a fifth of Johnnie Walker Red in my backpack, I boarded the plane. (53)

I hated my drinking upset him, but I despised his judgement even more.  I wasn't a drunk, for God's sake.  Beer was my reward for enduring this post in the middle of East Africa. I'd earned every drop. (85)

The government puts an exorbitant tax on alcohol to discourage its use.  Singapore wants citizens to be productive members of society, not addicts. (142)

The beauty of the Seychelles is hallucinogenic for someone like me, coming from the desert and being newly sober.  Color is exploding in every direction.  Green palm trees.  Red hibiscus flowers.  Powder-blue sky.  Sparkling-white sand. The sea is the craziest translucent blue-green color that I have ever seen. (186)

I could almost here my dad chiming in with "Go, gal, go." (218)


Nancy is an alcoholic expat, living in Abu Dhabi with her husband Allan who works for a film company.  
Nancy, a competitive swimmer in her younger days has also been a heavy drinker since 9th grade.  But, hey...she gets up every morning, gets her son David to school, and holds down a full time job.  What's the problem?
Alcohol gives her courage and keeps her fears at bay.  Fear of the past, present, and future.
Sitting in a pharmacy one day after a long night of drinking, Nancy thinks about her life up to this point.  Where she's been, how she got there, lessons she's learned, people she's met, people she has lost, and cultures she's experienced in every way imaginable.  
Could there be another way to live this life?  Could she stop fighting the "war of her own making"? 

What I Liked

Nancy's bravery and adventures as a young woman.  My mind was blown by the countries she'd visited and lived in by the time she was an expat living in Abu Dhabi.  The expat lifestyle has always been interesting, exciting, and scary all at the same time to me.  Nancy's life experiences in different countries, navigating the languages, cultures, climates, laws, etc. did not disappoint.

Literary references - Guy de Maupassant, Bob Dylan, West with the Night by Beryl Markham, A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Hans Christian Andersen

The mostly equal attention and detail that Bercaw gives to life in recovery as she did to her growing alcoholism.  This is the part I think is missing for a lot of people who need to hear these stories.  Recovery is possible.  It's not easy, and it's a lifelong process, but it's worth it.  

What I Didn't Like

For someone who drank most every day of her life over many many years, making the decision to stop drinking without medical assistance was very dangerous.   It happens, yes.  But, Nancy was lucky.  I was even more surprised that she was so concerned about withdrawal symptoms from a 20 mg. anti-depressant than she was (or seemed to be) about withdrawal from alcohol.  She does mention that alcohol withdrawal usually includes "tranquilizing medication and medical support," but then she chooses to go her own route.
I'm not trying to lessen what Nancy did.  I'm really not.  But, people die from alcohol withdrawal.  I wish that she would have at least mentioned how dangerous her choice was.

Overall Recommendation

Nancy's story is an important one, not just for other alcoholics and recovering alcoholics, but the rest of the world too.  As a recovering alcoholic myself, I firmly believe there are many more women like Nancy and myself who have a problem with alcohol and either are ashamed or afraid of admitting it. It's also difficult to decide whether or not one truly has a problem with alcohol living in a society soaked with it.  And even if someone does decide he/she has a problem, what happens next.  The stigma has to end, and authors like Nancy who are brave enough to share their stories will keep that hope alive.

The Author

Nancy Stearns Bercaw

Website, Twitter, Facebook

Other Stops on the Tour

Wednesday, August 9th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, August 10th: Peppermint PhD
Friday, August 11th: Tina Says…
Monday, August 14th: Sara the Introvert
Wednesday, August 16th: Openly Bookish
Monday, August 21st: Kimberly Fisher on Instagram
Wednesday, August 23rd: Mama Reads Hazel Sleeps
Thursday, August 31st: Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, September 6th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, September 7th: Sarah Reads Too Much
Tuesday, September 12th: Wining Wife
Wednesday, September 13th: Stacy’s Books
Thursday, September 14th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Monday, September 18th: Bookish Realm Reviews
Monday, September 18th: Everyone Needs Therapy
Thursday, September 21st: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Monday, September 25th: Breezes at Dawn
Friday, September 29th: Suko’s Notebook