A title which should get some sort of award for double entendre, In My Skin: A Memoir of Addiction by Kate Holden is a story that has three parts. Part One is believable and depressing. Part Two gives the impression of fake news: it is only possible to believe it. Part Three is believable and hopeful. The three parts are my designation and don’t have a relation to chapter headings. Part Two should have lots and lots of trigger warnings and could be a training manual for aspiring prostitutes.
Part One encompasses Chapters One through Chapter Five. Kate tells her story from childhood to age twenty-one. Her parents were educated liberals and well off financially. Her mother established an alternative school which Kate attended until high school. Home life was comfortable. At twenty-one, she toured Europe for six months and had her first experience with marijuana. On return home and while attending university, she shared accommodations, friends, and occasionally meth. She was never far from her parents and maintained a good relationship with them. She had boyfriends but it was with James she first tried heroin. At first, James objected. Although he was a user, he did not want her to do it. When James finally gave in, the two joined together in a downward spiral that centered on the need for money.
Kate financed her habit by using credit cards and “borrowing” from her parents. She would pay the money back with earnings from her job at a bookstore. Until she started “borrowing” from the bookstore receipts. Eventually, she was not able to pay back what she had stolen and she lost her source of income. James realized that he could not continue their lifestyle. He decided on rehabilitation. He also knew he could not try rehab in the company of a user. Kate had lost her job and her lover. At the time she first decided to try rehab she had been using heroin for two years. Immediately after “graduating” from rehab, she began using again, just to prove she could do only a little bit. She believed she could control it but she couldn’t. She had to solve the issue of money. Prostitution offered a way out. Her dealer’s girlfriend worked as a prostitute. The two offered to provide introductions.
This believable and depressing part leads to Part Two encompassing Chapters Six through Twenty-four. The novel has twenty-five chapters. Five chapters are about a slide into drug addiction. Believable. Nineteen chapters are about prostitution set in a background of drug addiction. I am not sure one writer wrote this second part. It reads like a collection of porn fantasy. It is very graphic in its helpful advice to wannabe prostitutes. I do not claim that all the experiences described are impossible for one woman but there seems to be a mixture of writing styles. It is possible for a writer to mix styles, especially if the work is written over an extended period but a lot of this looks like a collection of letters from Penthouse. Not every variation of sexual activity is described but the author makes a good attempt to do so. To imply that prostitution can be a way to empower women boggles the mind and should ensure this book won’t be on many feminist reading lists.
The last chapter, back to the issue of addiction, is believable if one agrees that all things are possible. I think it an unbelievable Pollyanna type ending but it is possible. I have almost no experience with drugs and drug addiction. My addiction is alcohol and there are a lot of similarities in the recovery processes. One similarity is that recovery is a life-long process. Here is the first passage I found unbelievable. She was offered a syringe by a friend, this was her response. “And I knew I didn’t need this thing anymore. What I needed was myself back. Already I was impatient for the drug to clear out of me and the new life to begin.” (p.255). True, she had been on a Methadone program but, according to her, she had also been using heroin for a good part of the treatment. What she mentioned in the quote is almost a version of “cold turkey.” Another part of recovery involves not returning to old environments and former friends. But she returns to St. Kilda, Melbourne to meet former friends Max and David with whom she shares stories of her past.
The most offensive part of the book is the author’s arrogance. She can understand all customer foibles, weaknesses, and kinks. She is a caregiver.
Why would I give this publication even three out of five stars? Because it is entertaining to people who have wrestled with various types of addiction, like a sex addiction. Maybe that is what the author wrote about. The title does not inform readers that this novel is about DRUG addiction. It is a reader assumption and a premise that most of the one hundred twenty reviewers on Amazon held about this novel. Available free through Kindle Unlimited.