September 19, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it an A

The ”Kennedy curse” looks like a garden-variety hex compared with the dysfunction passed down among Brown’s alcoholic clan. When the acclaimed ”Lucky Town” novelist was 5, his embezzling mom dragged him along to an arson; both his siblings committed suicide in middle age; Brown himself abandoned his wife, kids, and college English students for days to binge on booze and meth. If that’s not bleak enough, consider this memoir’s really depressing scenes… Hollywood script meetings. It’s all riveting and self-pitiless, but two passages are priceless: a devastating imagining of the post-recovery shame that led his sister to dive into the bone-dry L.A. River, and his nightmarishly funny battle of wills with a potbellied pig that was supposed to salvage his marriage but instead helped demolish it.

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