A colorful family is fertile ground for the imagination. Jamie Brickhouse, in his memoir Dangerous When Wet, mines the depths of his family relationships for an alternately heartbreaking, hilarious look at growing up and learning to take responsibility for your own life.
Jamie grows up with his parents, but it is his mother that is the dominant force in his young life. She is a bouffanted, fierce, and devoted mother who praises Peggy Lee and believes in making her own money. From her, Jamie learns that he has expectations to meet. That thought—“What would Mama Jean think?”-- leads Jamie to the brink of self-destruction.
Dangerous When Wet has at its core Jamie’s struggle with alcohol and his attempts to get sober. His flirtations with drugs and his long love affair with the bottle affect each of his relationships—including with his partner, his boss, and his mother. We see how his love of drink began, his attempts to stay sober and his setbacks. In addition, the reader gets a powerful look at the gay lifestyle during the early days of HIV. Jamie lives with little thought for safe sex or the consequences of his indiscriminate behavior. His chasing after this lifestyle has serious health consequences for him and puts him in some dicey situations. His life seemed rather flamboyant and outlandish.
The tone alternated between serious and more humorous, but the “funny” parts fell flat for me. I just could not find much to laugh about in this tale of addiction, recklessness, and irresponsibility. I did find it effective, though, as a family memoir and as a tale of recovering oneself after overcoming addiction. His mother was something else, and his later relationship broke my heart. She was always in his corner in her own way, and in the end, Jamie got the approval he needed.
Recommended if you like a good memoir or like to read about people overcoming challenges.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina