The memoir WE ARE ALL MADE OF SCARS opens with a classic “cry for help” when the teenage Christopher Morris self-harms as a means to get his alcoholic mother’s attention. At the actual moment he is trying to get her off the phone so he can make a pre-arranged call to a girlfriend but the particular incident is representative of a pattern of his being ignored. It’s the final straw. A desperate step which will result in the young boy being put into a mental health facility where he must plead with his therapists that his action is a direct result of his mother’s addiction and it’s her who should be hospitalized not him.
Morris’s mother’s drinking had been an issue throughout his childhood. In and out of rehab, she had often absent from his life in mind if not in body. While the author is detailed about his personal situation during this time he also has a way of conjuring the era in prose that is easy and naturalistic–a novelist’s way of shaping a world around him, building the context. Pop cultural references stretch from Garbage Pail Kids sticker cards to Transformers toys and later, as he grows up, move on to Nirvana and Guns’n’Roses. His detailing of deadening school lessons and time spent at malls with his friends will resonate with many. The typical high school romances bloom and wither, each making way for the next. Indeed the very normality of some elements of Morris’s life throw the harsh reality of his home situation into even starker contrast. More than a few times he compares his hidden traumas with the seemingly care free lives of his school friends though Morris is never maudlin or even jealous. His is, initially at least, a stoic response to difficult circumstances.
Not long after his sixteenth birthday, with a new driving license promising him some much needed autonomy, Morris finds himself having to check his mother into hospital as her alcoholism has escalated. This traumatic event, in which the teenager has to coax and cajole his disturbed mother into co-operating with the medical staff, is recalled with stark clarity with all the confusion, desperation and heartbreak expressed within a few pages of urgent prose. Like so much of this excellent memoir it is poignantly captured and deeply affecting. In some ways, this incident is a tipping point which sees Morris’s coping methods become more damaging and erratic. By this stage of the narrative the reader will have long become invested in Morris’s story and be willing him to ultimately overcome his trials. WE ARE ALL MADE OF SCARS is a testament to his success in surviving.
WE ARE ALL MADE OF SCARS contains vital insight into the generational trauma of alcoholism. Honest and open throughout, author Christopher Morris is unafraid to confide in the reader and, by sharing so many personal truths, manages to create a vivid memoir of hope and survival.
~Kent Lane for IndieReader