Finding Fisher by M.J. James
I received Finding Fisher from NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Ian Fisher is lost in his own personal hell, trying to drown out the pain and heartache that has consumed him for the last year. In a haze of alcohol, drugs, and sex, the ability to go numb and forget becomes harder and harder. Ian's luck finally runs out when he is arrested. He is forced to call his only family, one of two people he so selfishly ran away from a year earlier. His sister bails him out, but probation and a mandate from the court means he is moving back into his childhood home with her. A home that is just down the road from the love of his life, the man he left and has thought of every day since, Sam. Ian struggles with his addictions and his mental health while trying desperately to win Sam back. But when he is gay-bashed and almost killed, his road to recovery from the hate crime is just the beginning of a journey that will show Ian that he matters and that he is loved. Maybe one day, he can accept that he deserves both.
First, I have to say, trigger warnings for suicidal thoughts, addiction (alcohol and drug), mental health issues, homophobia, and hate crimes are no joke here. Heed these warnings if you are easily triggered. That said, I think this is an amazing journey of self.
This was a hard read. The representation of addiction is so spot on and had me choked up so many times. Ian's character is so unlikeable because he does nothing but act out, but being able to hear the war raging inside of him helps us understand how much the demons he is fighting contribute to his unlikeability. This book is a journey for mind and heart, of accepting that we are human, and sometimes we screw up big time, but there is always a way back from the darkness.
The thing that really impressed me here is the characters. While most of our time is spent in the head of Ian, we get a clear picture of the toll his actions have had on both his sister and Sam. The standout, though, is Ian himself. M.J. James created a flawed and broken man, one that you want to take by the shoulds and shake as hard as you can before you wrap your arms around him in hopes of saving him from the cruelty of his own mind. The self-loathing and complete sorrow of his soul is almost palpable. I think one of the themes that resonated with me the most is the idea Ian had that holding onto and shoving his emotions down was the best way to deal with them. The way he thinks about becoming vulnerable and showing emotion is part of a culture that subscribes to this type of toxic masculinity that is harmful both mentally and physically. It is not until Ian begins to actually allow himself to feel and grieve that he can start the real journey.
The one criticism I have that kept this from being a five star was the ending. It wasn't bad, just abrupt. We wait for something to happen, and when it does, it is a quiet moment that I think was lacking the emotional punch that I truly wanted and needed. That is not to say that I wanted a different outcome, I just wanted to feel the ending in the same intense way, we did at some other emotional points in the story.
I highly recommend this read. While fighting an addiction is different for everyone, I believe that books like this are important because they remind us that an addict is still a person struggling in a way we might not understand, but struggling nonetheless. It promotes empathy, which is far more valuable than sympathy.