Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review: A Piece of Cake

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As an avid reader, I'm always on the lookout for the next good read. A book that captures your attentions from the beginning and keeps it throughout the chapters. This book took me through a roller coaster of emotions; sadness, pity, disgust, and even gave me nightmares. It's such a good read, I had to share it because I know so many of you are also big readers. I haven't done that many reviews, especially with the amount of books I read, so I figured I'd start with a great one that wasn't about pregnancy or parenting. Thanks again Tiff for letting me borrow it, I knew I could count on you for the best book suggestions!

**Warning** Some of you may think this review contains spoilers, I on the other hand don't think it does since the back of the cover and the description itself tells how it will end (happy). If that doesn't give it away, you can use cognitive reasons to deduce it yourself. Kind of like how you know people will die during The Hunger Games since it's a battle to the end. Keep reading if you choose, or come back tomorrow for a new post.

Good Reads Description: 
There are shelves of memoirs about overcoming the death of a parent, childhood abuse, rape, drug addiction, miscarriage, alcoholism, hustling, gangbanging, near-death injuries, drug dealing, prostitution, or homelessness.

Cupcake Brown survived all these things before she’d even turned twenty.

And that’s when things got interesting….

You have in your hands the strange, heart-wrenching, and exhilarating tale of a woman named Cupcake. It begins as the story of a girl orphaned twice over, once by the death of her mother and then again by a child welfare system that separated her from her stepfather and put her into the hands of an epically sadistic foster parent. But there comes a point in her preteen years—maybe it’s the night she first tries to run away and is exposed to drugs, alcohol, and sex all at once—when Cupcake’s story shifts from a tear-jerking tragedy to a dark comic blues opera. As Cupcake’s troubles grow, so do her voice and spirit. Her gut-punch sense of humor and eye for the absurd, along with her outsized will, carry her through a fateful series of events that could easily have left her dead.

Young Cupcake learned to survive by turning tricks, downing hard liquor, partying like a rock star, and ingesting every drug she could find while hitchhiking up and down the California coast. She stumbled into gangbanging, drug dealing, hustling, prostitution, theft, and, eventually, the best scam of all: a series of 9-to-5 jobs. But Cupcake’s unlikely tour through the cubicle world was paralleled by a quickening descent into the nightmare of crack cocaine use, till she eventually found herself living behind a Dumpster.

Astonishingly, she turned it around. With the help of a cobbled together family of eccentric fellow addicts and “angels”—a series of friends and strangers who came to her aid at pivotal moments—she slowly transformed her life from the inside out.

A Piece of Cake is unlike any memoir you’ll ever read. Moving and almost transgressive in its frankness, it is a relentlessly gripping tale of a resilient spirit who took on the worst of contemporary urban life and survived it with a furious wit and unyielding determination. Cupcake Brown is a dynamic and utterly original storyteller who will guide you on the most satisfying, startlingly funny, and genuinely affecting tour through hell you’ll ever take.

My Review:
I haven’t read a book this good in a long, long time. The book is really heart-wrenching and it’s incredible what she survived. The book is really visual and I love how she tells her story, but I also appreciate that she left out gory details of the ugly parts of her life (like specifics about rapes and prostituting). It’s really a wonderful telling of a true success story, you find yourself rooting and crying with her every step of the way. When talking about the book with my friend whom I borrowed it from, we kept repeating about how we could never have survived what she went through and would have thrown in the towel instead of pushing on. The amount of trials she faced throughout her life, but especially as a child, are horrific.

As for her addictions, seeing her rationalize her drug/alcohol abuse really helped me to understand addiction so much better. I’ve known several addicts in my life and couldn’t understand their thinking and knew it was their disease, but didn’t realize how their rationalizations keep them from admitting they have a problem, regardless of how bad things get. Reading how Cupcake acts, thinks, and believes while she’s using and seeing her journey through rehabilitation is really eye-opening. Here are some examples that really stood out to me “If I can hold down a job, I must not have a problem. Dope fiends can’t keep a job” or “If I give up ___, I can’t be a dope fiend (even though all other drugs/alcohol are still being used, just taking out one of them seems okay)”.

This book is so unreal and such an amazing story of her struggles in life, but leaves your broken heart for her mostly healed. It truly is a success story of one I’ve never read of before. This book is unlike any other book I’ve read before (you can’t even begin to compare it with A Million Little Pieces by James Frey). I relished in reading about her recovery, the friends she made, how her thinking changed, and how she had to re-teach herself to become the woman she wanted to be. She kept pushing on and on to achieve her dreams: to be sober and become a lawyer.

I read some other reviews of the book, and found that some people didn’t like how she “glorified” her drug use/gang days, her “superior” intelligence of scamming others and securing job after job despite obvious resume exaggerations and poor work ethic. After reading some of these details, I have to disagree. I think she wrote about that time in her life as how she felt at that age and time. If you’re a 20 year old drug user and you can do more drugs or drink more than your other user friends, I can see how you would think that would give you bragging rights or make you the baddest of the bunch. As for the “superior” intelligence, if you have ever known an addict, they can be very dynamic. It takes a lot of creativity, scamming, and manipulation to stay high. Since she kept pulling one over on victims, I understand how she believes she’s outsmarted society and can keep her lifestyle going. Plus, the majority of people want to believe that a person is telling the truth, so when someone keeps lying about something, even if you don’t believe what they’re saying, you want to. The only negative review piece that I can agree with is how believable all the details are since Cupcake was constantly high and drunk. It would definitely be hard to remember everything when you’re not in the right state of mind. At the same time though, I think her book really goes over the parts she remembers best, there are lots of details left out (like descriptions of her “business partners”, details of the rapes and molestation) and I think that’s because she didn’t remember everything (and didn’t want to share the really bad parts). I don’t want to give the impression that there are holes in the storyline though, it really flows throughout the years.

Overall, this book is a must-read. Just don’t read it before bedtime or you may get nightmares! Have you read this book or have read any must-reads you have to share?
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