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4.43  ·  Rating details ·  183 ratings  ·  47 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
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!
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Tessa Tito
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this memoir, but something about it just didn't quite click for me the way that it did for other readers and it was overhyped in the reviews I've read. What I loved: the non-linear narrative that braided in three different eras of Mohr's life kept the story moving, was interesting, fresh, gritty, and echoed the chaos of what it's like to be an addict. I appreciated the way that the author was so shockingly honest and real about the shitty things he had done.

And yet, disa
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
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
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.
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.
Kari Shemwell
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
"My first batch of stories was too much head, not enough heart. All the characters brandished vocabularies like weapons, but all it really did for them was provide more words to describe their disappointments in life."
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a beautiful, true love letter Josh. Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us.
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Authentic, brutal, disheartening, encouraging, hopeful, hopeless amazing. Read Sirens.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Not actually finished.
David Olsen
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great memoir.
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I feel weird recommending this book, and yet I do so, wholeheartedly. Why? To whom would I suggest it? I wouldn't wave this kind of soul-baring at just anyone because, as sharp and compelling and artful as the writing is, it's also at times (as it damn well should be) difficult and wrenching and frustrating. All I can say is, this account feels true. It FEELS true, and that's important to me. I reach for books like this not infrequently because I've lost people I loved so much to addiction. Ouch ...more
Emily Vajda
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Startlingly honest. Joshua Mohr cracks open his heart and allows the reader to explore inside. Each sentence is a lesson in style for other writers and I read SIRENS, studied SIRENS, as though I were back in Joshua's classroom. Simply put, SIRENS is stunning.
Ryan Bradford
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Blew through this one. It hits hard.
Heather Scott Partington
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
"I'm glad I embarrassed myself all those nights,” author Joshua Mohr (All This Life, 2016) writes at the beginning of his rich and fragmented addiction memoir, Sirens, “because I learned what shame was.” Mohr’s life in San Francisco’s Mission District reels with lyrical and enthusiastic drug use until parenting and a health scare inspire his sobriety. Though he had long endeavored to block addiction’s siren song, seeing his daughter in peril cuts away his pretense and sends him from temptation. ...more
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Brutally honest. Poignant without sentimentality. Devastating in its depiction of Mohr's struggle with recovery.
Kane Bergstrom
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
From the beginning to the end, the author slowly peels back layers of his skin and walks around naked in plain sight. Through stories of his past and stories of his present, he allows us into his everyday struggles and struggle. Friendship, love, parenthood, and addiction swarm the pages with brilliant prose, metaphors, similes, and analogies. This is the type of book I could read again and again when I just need somebody to talk to.
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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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