Becky’s One Hundredth Book Review: “Dope” by Sara Gran

“Dope” by Sara Gran was a very interesting read. I am very impressed with the sheer volume of surprises that Gran is able to put together in her novels. This is the second book of hers that I have read and now that I have finished it I feel the need to go back and reread the first one again.

In the book “Dope” Josephine is an ex-addict who has been clean now for two years. She is recruited by the parents of a girl who is missing. The girl’s name is Nadine and she has become part of the world that Josephine used to know so well. Joe is offered $1,000 up front to find Nadine and an additional $1,000 when she finds her. Joe takes the grand and considers leaving it at that. Then she decides that finding Nadine might be worth her while. So she looks. Joe once again emerges herself in the world that had claimed so much of her life. She is forced to face her demons on a regular basis and try to not succumb to her desires of just a taste, because it is never just a taste.

Gran’s ability to dive so deeply into the world of dope was impressive and convincing. “It’s wasn’t that being high felt so good, especially not when you’d been shooting as long as Yonah had. You could hardly even call it being high. It was that nothing else felt bad. There were no aches, no pains, no memories, no shame. Nothing mattered now. It was like junk took you up just a few feet above everybody else, just enough so you didn’t have to involve yourself in all the petty problems of the world. Those weren’t your problems anymore. Let someone else worry. You could watch it all and feel nothing. For that little piece of time you had everything you needed, everything you ever wanted.” (Dope, pg 66-67). I love this passage for several reasons. First of all, it puts getting high into a whole new perspective for me. Personally, I’ve never been one for drugs, so whenever I hear about someone who has overdosed, whether it be a celebrity or someone I went to high school with, I just cannot fathom why a person would start in the first place. Reading “Dope” by Sara Gran made me realize that sometimes it isn’t about what the drugs make you feel, but rather the fact that they make you not feel.

At another point in the book, Gran once again addresses the appeal of getting into drugs in the first place, “That’s why you start, and that’s why you stick with it, so you can finally be someone: a junkie.” (Dope, pg 105). It’s a depressing way of thinking about things, but at the same time, it makes sense in a morbid way. There are so many people who spend their time trying to understand the why of living. So many people aren’t satisfied with who they are and feel the need to turn in different directions to find an answer. Joe puts it quite simply – you start to be someone.  

As I mentioned before, I was very impressed with Gran’s knowledge about dope and the world around it. She is able to describe the nitty-gritty in a way that only someone who has been there could possibly explain. It makes me very curious about the author. Did she just do the research that thoroughly? Or does she have skeletons in her closet on which she was able to build a story? I also really liked the character Josephine. She has a sarcastic attitude which I always find appealing. She is able to find the humor in things that aren’t normally funny.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, it was very well written, but I would probably only recommend this book to a certain audience. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a happy book. But even for a fictional novel, it has a strong air of truth to it. I also like the way that Gran is able to keep her readers guessing until the very last page. The first book that I read by her was that way as well. I cannot wait to get my hands on more of her work.   

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