Zoë's Reviews > Everything I Never Wanted to Be

Everything I Never Wanted to Be by Dina Kucera
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's review
Nov 07, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: memoir-biography, review-copy
Read on November 07, 2010

Everything I Never Wanted To Be by Dina Kucera is a memoir which is not done justice because to say it is a story of one family's battle with alcoholism and drug addiction, three generations of addicts, fails to capture the most powerful aspect of Everything I Never Wanted To Be which is Kucera's voice. Kucera herself was an alcoholic and pill addict for most of her three daughter's lives, and each of them has struggled with addiction in turn. Her youngest daughter Carly became a heroin addict at only fourteen and has been in and out of rehab since. Kucera's household also includes her mother who suffers from Parkinson's Disease and her grandson with cerebral palsy. Throughout the memoir Kucera struggles to support them all, working as a grocery store clerk despite having dreams of being a stand-up comic and writer. Even while telling a story filled with tragedy Kucera somehow manages to keep her sense of humour.

Everything I Never Wanted To Be is not a polished book- it is raw and gutsy and brutally honest. Kucera's words sear an imprint on the reader which will not be soon forgotten. It is a book which leaves a mark, managing to stand out despite the popularity of the basic premise. There were particular portions of the memoir which were absolutely breath-taking, specifically a description of what life is like for an addict and how drugs are able to quiet the noise in her brain. Even through the humour though, there is something absolutely heart-breaking about Kucera's story. In an example pulled from her author's bio but which also appears in the novel Kucera writes about how she has never won anything:

When it comes to awards and recognition, she was once nominated for a Girl Scout sugar cookie award, but she never actually received the award because her father decided to stop at a bar instead of going to the award ceremony. Dina waited on the curb outside the bar, repeatedly saying to panhandlers, “Sorry. I don’t have any money. I’m seven.”

Kucera's memoir provides an informative and well-written look into life in a family of addicts and the terrible cycle that occurs as one generation gives rise to another with even worse addictions. With three daughters in various stages of recovery/relapse from various addictions, Kucera has experienced firsthand what can happen when a parent is unable to stay clean: it is what occurred to her afterall. She isn't afraid to hold herself responsible for her own role in her daughters' struggles, but at the same time she has finally accepted that recovery is an individual decision which every person has to make for themselves. It is a tragic yet powerful message which will ring true to anyone who has dealt with the consequences of addiction first hand, but it is also insightful for those who have not. Everything I Never Wanted To Be is a memoir filled with hope and tragedy, it is a story about succumbing to as well as beating the odds; ultimately it is a candid and extremely memorable look into the lives of one family and the adversity they have faced. ****
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Mike O'Mary You are absolutely right, Zoe. The thing that makes this book is Dina's voice.

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