Book Review: Strung Out by Erin Khar

Erin Khar's Memoir Of Addiction Recovery At Volume Reading Series | WAMC

Strung Out // by Erin Khar // narrated by Jayme Mattler

Pub Day: February 25, 2020

Publisher: Harlequin – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada)


In this deeply personal and illuminating memoir about her fifteen-year struggle with heroin, Khar sheds profound light on the opioid crisis and gives a voice to the over two million people in America currently battling with this addiction.

Growing up in LA, Erin Khar hid behind a picture-perfect childhood filled with excellent grades, a popular group of friends and horseback riding. After first experimenting with her grandmother’s expired painkillers, Khar started using heroin when she was thirteen. The drug allowed her to escape from pressures to be perfect and suppress all the heavy feelings she couldn’t understand.

This fiercely honest memoir explores how heroin shaped every aspect of her life for the next fifteen years and details the various lies she told herself, and others, about her drug use. With enormous heart and wisdom, she shows how the shame and stigma surrounding addiction, which fuels denial and deceit, is so often what keeps addicts from getting help. There is no one path to recovery, and for Khar, it was in motherhood that she found the inner strength and self-forgiveness to quit heroin and fight for her life.

My Thoughts:

I am having some trouble getting my thoughts organized for this book. I am a big fan of memoirs, especially the ones that are so painstakingly honest about their pasts. This is my third or fourth addiction-related memoir and they have really changed the way I think about addicts and alcoholics. I have to admit that I used to be somewhat judgmental about these things, as people often are in their ignorance, but these books have really opened my eyes to their struggles. They have turned into real people rather than statistics. As someone dealing with mental health issues and past trauma myself, it is now much easier for me to understand why someone would feel the need to turn to drugs as a way out.

Khar is definitely honest about her story and does not seem to hold back when speaking about the many negative decisions she has made in her life. The prologue starts out shockingly with her 12 year old son asking if she has every done drugs before. This is quite understandably a difficult question for her to answer. Should she be honest and possibly cause him to lose respect for his mother, or should she protect her son for a little bit longer?

I liked how at the beginning of the book she included facts about drug use in the US and how the political climate, expectations of parents on their children, the lack of comprehensive mental healthcare, and other factors can influence a person’s decision to turn to drugs at some point in their life. This made me think (and hope) that more of these statistics and theories would be included in the rest of the book.

But it soon turned into a mostly chronological telling of all the major decisions she has made in the 14 years of her drug use without much further deep discussions on those topics. That is, of course, fine. A memoir is what the author decides it is. It was just something I was excited about and then ended up not receiving.

But despite the many bad decisions she made, there hardly ever seemed to be any accountability and consequences to her actions. Not once did she have a run-in with the police. Her housing situation was always taken care of. There was never a lack of people handing her money, free drugs, rides, beds, couches, love, or anything else it seemed. She had healthcare and rehab when she wanted it and always a home to come back to. She even had access to schooling and a new, exciting job whenever she was ready for it. I am not saying that this isn’t great for her. I am so glad she had that support system and found her way through her struggles. But it is in stark contrast to the stories of so many other people in this country, especially people of color. And while she addresses this herself by talking about her awareness of racism and how people of color have completely different stories without the privileges that she has, it always seemed rather shallow. It felt more like an obligatory mention than anything she thought about more deeply.

I don’t want to end my review here and make it seem like I hated this book because that really is not the case. I deeply appreciate her taking the time to write this memoir because it gave me an insight into a life that I am not familiar with myself. This was a very humbling read. I very much identified with the young girl trying her hardest to get good grades and hanging out with the horses every day. While my trauma did not happen until my late teens, I still understand the urge of wanting to get out of your skin and out of your head so desperately. It also lead me to recognize the privilege I possessed (and still do) that helped me avoid that outcome myself. I am truly happy for her to have found her peace and that she was able to form the life she now has and enjoys. I also really appreciated her honesty with her son in the end. It was a hope I had from the start and I was glad to see it happen.

While the NetGalley ARC I originally received was an ebook, I was able to listen to the audiobook thanks to my library. I really enjoyed Jayme Mattler as a narrator because her voice and inflections fit the words perfectly in my opinion. Whether the situation asked for emotions or the lack of emotions, she always seemed to be spot on.

About the Author:

Erin Khar is the author of Strung Out: One Last Hit and Other Lies that Nearly Killed Me, a memoir about her fifteen-year battle with opiate addiction that explores the very nature of why people do drugs, casting light on the larger opiate crisis, written with the intention to destigmatize the topic of drug addiction.

She writes about things like addiction, recovery, mental health, relationships, parenting, infertility, self-care, and her undying love for Beverly Hills, 90210.

Her work has been featured many places, including Marie Claire, SELF, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Salon, HuffPost, The Manifest-Station, and Cosmonauts Avenue.

Her weekly advice column, Ask Erin, can be read here:

About the Publisher:

They are a dynamic, diverse and growing group of trade imprints committed to publishing the best in commercial fiction and narrative nonfiction across a wide array of genres. Offering a broad and vibrant range of editorial, they are driven by a singular vision: to introduce readers to bold, imaginative stories that entertain, foster discussion, challenge preconceptions and stimulate new ways of perceiving the world.

Download free picture Jumping horse banner template on CC-BY License ~ Free  Image Stock ~ fx №193279

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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