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4.45  ·  Rating details ·  260 ratings  ·  58 reviews
"To the short list of genuinely great addiction memoirs we can now add Sirens, a searing and at times hilarious account of Mohr's lost years in the dive bars and gutters of San Francisco. Like Mary Karr and Jerry Stahl, there is no line Mohr won't cross, either in his erstwhile quest for self-immolation, or his fearless honesty in reporting back from that time. But what se ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published January 17th 2017 by Two Dollar Radio
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Those who know me know that I don't typically go in for non-fiction or memoir but this is Joshua Fucking Mohr, one of my major small press author crushes.

Being asked to read Sirens was like being given a backstage pass into Mohr's mind - how could I turn down the opportunity to roam freely inside his head as he breaks down his long and complicated relationship with drugs and alcohol?

This is not just a story of recovery, but one of acknowledging that the demons never die. And of celebrating eve
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You knew that Joshua Mohr had spent time in bars after reading any of his previous work, but how bad was it exactly?

Here you get the confessions of a young man addicted to chaos who found his logodadelus and emerged from the wreckage. The structure of his telling will remind you of that time in your own life, too, if you've indeed moved on from it and found new addictions like the joy in your daughter's laughter, love reflected in your partner's eyes, and solidarity in a literary community or a
Patrick O'Neil
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The long journey of conducting a life of debauchery from every barstool in SF’s Mission District to trying to get clean and sober, relapsing, tremulous relationships, fathering a child, and a heart-attack—this book is a heavy emotional rollercoaster ride of harsh realities amid the consequences of the recovering alcoholic’s life. Josh Mohr’s Sirens ushers in a new generation of addiction/recovery memoirs—do yourself a favor and read this book!
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Extra points for starting the book with a quote from James Baldwin, my favorite author. Joshua Mohr bares all in this book and the result is worth reading.
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very intense. Examines addiction plus the perils of toxic masculinity. The prose itself has a bloody quality to it. Like it's the stuff in your veins, in your soul. Poetics in every paragraph and the pacing just goes, goes, goes. The siren metaphor is never strained. It combines classical themes with hard-edged realism. I will warn people: some parts are heartbreaking. Mohr reminiscing about his alcoholism can wither your soul a bit. It makes one wonder what we have to do to change our hearts to ...more
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such an intense and honest memoir. No romanticizing of substance abuse and addiction here. Just gritty, raw honesty and great writing.
Adam Rodenberger
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To be clear, I know Josh as he was the last professor I had for workshop at USF.

Having said that, I've enjoyed all his books thus far. They've all been easy reads, which is not to say they are simple. While all his books contain a raw nature to the prose, I feel like this one has the most teeth because it is the most true of all of them.

There are a lot of mirrored moments here that accurately portray much of my own 20s in Kansas City. Maybe that's why this one stuck so easily in my craw. I'm s
Maril Crabtree
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This memoir is one of the clearest and most well-written accounts of a young man's journey into, through, and on the other side of drug and alcohol addiction. His use of metaphor is spot-on and he never stoops to maudlin or self-pitying writing. If anything, he's too hard on himself. But by and large, he helps readers identify with - and even like - the man who nearly wrecks his life permanently with the "sirens of drugs and alcohol before deciding to live a clean and sober existence. Above all, ...more
Tricia Friedman
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The horrors of addiction tapered only by the poetry in this memoir. Mohr intertwines insight with anecdote with philosophical questions. A tenderly constructed time capsule of a man questioning his worth.
Gail Ansel
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Holy cow. Just this afternoon I finished the great Josh memoir and my husband and I spent dinner talking about parents and kids and perceptions and transformation and forgiveness. Holy shit.

The thing that's so amazing (well, one of the things) is the subtlety. Of composition and of complex thought processes and an emotional journey and language and, and, and. Wow.

I thought I'd come out of it with a better understanding of a close family member, who overdosed (for the 10th? 15th? time) at 35 and
Jabiz Raisdana
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a harrowing terrifying look at addiction and the ultimate redemptive qualities of hope and fatherhood.

Mohr is in his element with the language of this memoir. There are no boring accounts of events. What Mohr does instead is use his provocative and image rich prose to bring his scenes to life. The tales he recounts are powerful metaphors drenches in emotions.

This is a must read for anyone who is a fan of Mohr's work, but also for readers in search of why and how we can fall so far away
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Joshua Mohr's "Sirens" should come with a warning label. Smart, beautiful, gritty, Mohr's memoir of substance abuse, recovery and relapse will shatter you with its honesty.

Mohr's prose has a corporeal presence, and you read it with your whole body, rather than just your mind. Which makes his openness about the fragility of his own recovery feel incisive. It points to a greater truth about mortality we may recoil from, but should allow ourselves to feel.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sirens is many things: a brutally honest and stridently original approach to the addiction memoir; a love song to a San Francisco that doesn't exist any more; a coming of age story with Fernet and special K. But if you've ever thought about crossing over to the sunny side of the street, Sirens is essential reading. ...more
Robert Vaughan
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sirens was among the books I most looked forward to read, and it did not disappoint. All the more because it is memoir, and I imagine the toughest sort of writing to produce. Inventive, emotional, heartfelt. A page turner.
Cheryl Klein
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
Like most smart and self-destructive people, Joshua Mohr is an expert on his own faults. Throw in some childhood trauma, and it's a recipe for a drug- and alcohol-fueled shame spiral. "Do I want to end up alone and alcoholic?" he asks, not entirely rhetorically. "No, of course not. Yes, of course." I've never been in a twelve-step program, but so much of this book resonates with my own tendencies toward shame and self-destruction, in small and not-so-small ways. This memoir is Mohr's play-by-pla ...more
Lauren Sapala
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book gutted me on a lot of levels. It’s very possibly the most beautiful book I’ve read in the last couple of years. I found myself in so many of the stories Mohr shared—being an addict/alcoholic, being a writer, being the parent of a small child (and a parent who finds that situation frequently challenging), being a struggling artist in San Francisco. I felt like I gave a huge sigh of relief as I read every single section. OMG, I’m not alone! Someone else has gone through these things and ...more
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I thought about giving this book 4 stars when I finished, but then realized I ripped through the whole thing in one day. Sirens is a raw, intimate look at a man’s struggles with addiction, relapse, and recovery, and how all of those experiences shape him as a father and husband. Mohr manages to both revel in his debauchery without glorifying it, and shamelessly illuminate the depths that his addiction took him to. His writing is pulpy without being over the top or cheesy, but also lyrical and be ...more
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Incredibly well written, this book grips you right from the start and stays in your head for quite awhile. A personal account of addiction and the fight for sobriety, it’s gritty, at times humorous, and brutally honest. Not quite a five star read just because I felt it was a bit one dimensional. The focus seemed entirely on addiction and didn’t delve into other aspects of Mohr’s life. But that was perhaps the point, that the addiction was so interwoven in his life that it wasn’t until he had a f ...more
Laurie Doyle
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What amazes me most about this book is how Mohr moves back and forth in time, flawlessly weaving together events of his childhood, his recovery from addiction, and the present moment. As with his other books, Mohr's brutal honesty and unique imagery in Sirens keep me engrossed. I read the book in a couple days, but continue to go back, rereading the passages I loved. Mohr gives us the highest of the high points of human existence and couples them with the lowest of the lows. All I can say is wow ...more
Emma Timmons
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: changed-my-life
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joshua Lerman
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Raw, tender, tough. It's straight forward prose; Mohr's account is of a time in his life that would stomp on frills and filigree. He bares his wounds and misdeeds, not with the effect of generating sympathy, but as an invitation to the reader to be more accepting of themself and the dark corners we hide from the world. Ultimately, it's a story about the healing power of honesty.
I was enthralled with this book and read it in two days.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a beautifully written book cataloging Joshua's addiction, and at the same time detailing the powerful impact people have had on his life. While the content of this book was often heavy, the novel itself was written in a way that I found easy to read. I highly recommend this book, and look forward to exploring what else Joshua Mohr has written. ...more
Daniel Vlasaty
Apr 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
great book that knocked me on my ass. it's crazy how much of myself, my addictions, my stupid bullshit, my relapses and excuses, i see in this book. change the setting from California to Chicago and this is almost play-by-play my life story (minus the heart surgery and strokes). one of my old writing professors even makes an appearance in the book.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book sucked me in, and I couldn't put it down. Mohr's writing style shows agency as he tells his addiction story—he is not a victim, and yet we empathize for him anyway. Whether we have physical addictions or not, we all have sirens of some sort. I highly recommend this. ...more
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had the pleasure of attending a memoir writer's workshop with Josh. It was a great experience. He read or referenced many of the best parts of this book. He mentioned some parts he was reworking in a newer edition. All of this probably impacted my impression of the book. ...more
Cris Edwards
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
The disjointed story adds to the momentum of the author's story. We get snippets of his recovery combined with recollections of his addiction and related stories that give keen insights. Great recovery bio. Recommended. ...more
Austin Pierce
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It took me three years to read.

I bought it when I was an editor taking a writing class from the author. I finished it when I was a counselor in a rehab facility. Oh, the places you will go.

It was worth the trip.
Wendy Adamson
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I not only loved Joshua's writing, but the way he structured Sirens pulled me into different time frames of his life, in a unique and engaging way. I love his writing so much that I want to read more of Joshuas work. ...more
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
Artfully written memoir about addiction and the battle to stay sober. Obviously a topic that’s been written about before, but Mohr’s tale is uniquely his own. I liked the way he “jumped” time periods while keeping me equally engaged in both times/places.
Robin Hornstein
Jan 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
As a psychologist, as a human and as someone who has worked in the Addiction field, this needs a six star rating. It is chilling and real, there are moments of humor and fear. I will be recommending this book often. Thank you, Josh!
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JOSHUA MOHR is the author of five novels, including “Damascus,” which The New York Times called “Beat-poet cool.” He’s also written “Fight Song” and “Some Things that Meant the World to Me,” one of O Magazine’s Top 10 reads of 2009 and a San Francisco Chronicle best-seller, as well as “Termite Parade,” an Editors’ Choice on The New York Times Best Seller List. His novel “All This Life” was recentl ...more

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“A couple days after that, we were told to take out our phones and delete every contact. People weren't having it. "I need these numbers, they said. The counselor was prepared for our incredulity. Every new crop of addicts must have reacted the same way. He countered our protestations with "Most of those people in your phone don't care about you. Delete everyone and make them earn their way back in. If they're good to you, reprogram their numbers. Otherwise, never talk to them again.” 0 likes
“I hadn't thought about that day in years, but it seemed nice. I didn't want to go first, but the counselor waited for one of us to raise our hand. She needed me, like Jessa, and being needed was part of being human. That was why I was in rehab: to turn human again.” 0 likes
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