Fifty Miles is a memoir in linked essays that addresses addiction and alcoholism. The book traces the life and death of the author’s son, Gray, a talented but troubled young man, to a drug overdose at thirty, as well as the author’s own recovery from substance abuse.
Introduction 13 I Do No Harm 22 Fireflies 39 Yarn 41 It’s Come Undone: Crocheting and Catastrophe 43 A New Kind of Poem 56 Leatherback Sea Turtle 57 To Drink a Glacier 59 Call of the Bagpipes 70 The Third Step 77 Thinking about The God of Questions on Winter Solstice 84 II First Days 87 Back Home 88 The Amaryllis Bud 89 Fifty Miles 90 Undoing a Death 96 Essay in Search of a Poem 98 Waiting for the Toxicology Report 101 January 9, 2015, 3:18 a.m. 103 Visitations 104 Ode to a Sea Star 106 Morning Walk On the Beach 108 Visiting The Netherlands 109 The Past 111 Into the Jungle 112 One Morning 124 Hiking in Wyoming, After a Death 127 Memory, Ever Green 134 III Parking Lot Nights 142 IV The Ink that Binds: Creative Writing and Addiction 180
Sheryl St. Germain’s Fifty Miles is an honest, whole-hearted exploration of addiction and its aftermath, a study of grief, hope, survival, and the cruel reality of failure. While St. Germain’s son Gray did not live to tell his own story, she manages here to tell it with care, compassion, and profound insight. Beautifully-written, deeply-felt, Fifty Miles is the story of so many of us who’ve fought addiction or suffered alongside loved ones caught in the net.
—Dinty W. Moore, Between Panic & Desire
These heart-breaking, candid and beautifully crafted essays reach beyond the death of a child.
They examine the difficult work of surviving the aftermath. What St. Germain offers is not just
her story, but the broader wisdom of distilling grief’s many voices. In so doing, she remains
an artist of the highest order."
—Barbara Hurd, Tidal Rhythms and Listening to the Savage
This isn’t a book about failed relationships, or loss, or grief, or addiction, or parenting. It is much more than that. To give it a label is to strip away the beauty of it—how these essays dissect and interweave and meditate on the emotional complexities of being part of a world that constantly breaks our hearts. It is about love, yes, and guilt, yes, and pain, yes, and memory that clings and holds and haunts. Sheryl St. Germain has created worlds within these pages—some in the unreal plains of a video game, some in the fraught vulnerabilities of motherhood—where she unspools a life cut short and how to reconcile and forgive and remember.
—Ira Sukrungruang, Buddha’s Dog & other Meditations
In the era of photoshop and Facebook, we're never been more in need of an honest and vulnerable writer like Sheryl St. Germain. With a poet's ear, a critic's insight, and a mother's fierceness, she investigates the life of her troubled son and her efforts to heal after his death. This is a necessary book for anyone who hopes to understand addiction, grief, healing, or the human heart.
—Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs