My Throwback Thursday choice this week is An Acre of Fools, an audiobook released in 2016.
An Acre of Fools is Aden James’ powerful and haunting portrayal of a father’s unwavering love and hope in the face of his daughter’s descent into drug addition – until it becomes too much to bear, causing him to renounce everything he thought he believed in. A character driven story which unfolds with much drama and unpredictability as the wedge between family members is driven ever deeper.
Peter Stewart had promised Mimi a house in the South, knowing how much she hated Chicago, the cold, the snow and the rain. The house they bought was just off the Okatie highway on the banks of the river and Mimi loved it on sight, regardless of its run down appearance. As the years passed and Peter fixed up the house during each week long vacation, their daughters arrived. Gracie first, then Austin.
The next morning the rain had passed and so had Austin’s nausea. The second day after the chemo was the worst for stomach problems. Other problems came after that, but at least this part of the problem was gone for now. She would need to get one more round of chemo at the Savannah Children’s Hospital during their week in Okatie. It was a compromise Mimi made with Austin’s pediatricians who were dead set against this trip.
It’s been a while since a book moved me as much as this one did. It’s heartfelt, challenging and beautifully written, told in the third person from a number of viewpoints. In this way the characters’ thoughts and feelings are laid bare. They grow, develop and change in ways they could never have imagined. The motivating forces and workings of an addict’s mind, the struggles of those closest to the manipulation and deceit, who try to help and understand, are shown to great effect.
An accomplished voice actor, MacLeod Andrews brings the emotions, raw intensity and pain into his performance, emphasizing the narrative. It pulled me in from the start and it’s a story that will stay with me for some time to come.
The fluctuating emotions were felt deeply – from hope and joy to the depths of despair. I could understand Mimi and Gracie’s disappointment with, and withdrawal from Austin as she becomes ever more calculating, abusive and uncaring of the hurt and anguish she’s causing. They never stop loving her but their emotions are conflicted, unable to accept or comprehend the life she has chosen, they feel helpless, unable to bring her back. Austin doesn’t want and won’t accept practical help, only money.
The horrors and devastation of drug addiction are represented so realistically, and how that addiction impacts on, not only the users who sink to shameless depths, but those around them. It’s heartbreaking, as are the resulting tragedies. Austin’s behaviour and the differing effect it has on each member of the family, particularly Peter, is completely believable. Mimi, Peter and Grace crave normality. Since Austin’s arrival their lives have been a constant battle in one way or another.
The atmosphere of the area is beautifully captured. The descriptions of the house, named River Soul, as it was and what it became, the boat trips and explorations of the river, the wildlife, the sunrises and sunsets – I was immersed in it all. A truly moving and intimate novel that explores the reality of difficult, overwhelming, emotive subjects and situations with authenticity and truth. Probing the depths of human nature, it’s about working through, and recovering from, the pain, tragedy and grief and coming out the other side.
About the Book
As she buries herself deeper and deeper into the narcotics culture of shameless selfishness and deeply personal manipulation, Peter’s unwavering hope for her drives a wedge between him and the less forgiving family members.
But when Austin finally chooses to embrace all that the life of addiction offers, Peter is forced to choose between his faith and a family too broken to hope.
He chooses poorly.