Stray' and 'Good morning destroyer of men's souls
Credit: Knopf Doubleday; Crown

Stray, by Stephanie Danler

If Stephanie Danler’s 2016 debut, the blockbuster restaurant-world chronicle Sweetbitter, was about the thrill of self-discovery — a heady whirl of fine wine, bad boys, and white tablecloths — her second, a memoir, offers something far more sobering. Though sober probably isn’t quite the word for a Southern California girlhood steered by parental neglect and addiction — a chaotic birthright she carries into her own terminally messy young adulthood.

Stray can feel both piecemeal and blinkered by its own privilege (private schools, last-minute trips to Spain), but it’s powerful, too: a raw, often lyrical portrait of pain, loss, and learning to let go. —Leah Greenblatt

Grade: B+

Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls, by Nina Renata Aron

If “co-dependency is a girl’s song,” as Nina Renata Aron writes, her scorching memoir proves it can be a beautiful one, too. She writes an addiction story from the perspective of the helpless partner, the lover too stuck in a dangerous dynamic to find her way out. The addict in question is K, a wild heartthrob with a debilitating heroin habit. She’s attracted to his chaos; their romance started as an affair while she was married with a kid.

Aron details the spiral, of screaming matches and vomit and things thrown across rooms. It’s her side, the nagger, the enabler, told in a rich, intense, hard package — a gritty tribute to the women who stick around too long. —David Canfield

Grade: A-

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