Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

By Nick Flynn @ 2004 by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.; 347 pages.

An estimated 3.5 million people experience homelessness in the United States in a given year.  Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, gives us insight into that way of life.

This is the story of Nick Flynn, a caseworker at a homeless shelter in Boston, who wound up running into his estranged father as one of his “customers.” This book is the recipient of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Memoir and was on the list of books I was encouraged to read in grad school.

Flynn’s memoir is very well written and at times is poetic. He does a wonderful job creating scenes and reflecting. His pacing is good. Timing is good. Structure—good.

Flynn as the protagonist is a sympathetic character. I respect his ability to hold it together during these difficult times and I also respect his literary accomplishment. I can relate to the internal turmoil he feels about a parent who doesn’t always do as society expects.

I’m not sure I understand why Flynn didn’t offer his father a place to live—with Flynn. At the same time, I feel like I should understand this, knowing how hard it would be for me to live with either of my parents. All the same, with the stakes so high, I’m not sure how I would react given a similar situation.

Mental illness is a tough one, not to be taken lightly, not to be passed on. It’s hard to admit it when someone you love is afflicted. Intelligence offers no immunity, and surprisingly, increases the risk.

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City is an honest, brave examination of a very difficult and complex family situation. I’ll be keeping it close, trying to learn from it. I recommend it to anyone who has their own parental problems (few of us don’t) and/or wants to learn the craft of memoir.

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