Colleen Kerrigan wakes up sick and bruised, with no clear memory of the night before. It’s Monday morning, and she is late for work again. She’s shocked to see the near-empty vodka bottle on her kitchen counter. It was full at noon yesterday; surely she didn’t drink that much last night? As she struggles out the door, she fights the urge to have a sip, just to take the edge off. But no, she’s not going to drink today.
This sets the stage for Lauren B. Davis’ novel The Empty Room, a story of a woman battling her alcohol demons (or rather denying they exist for the most part). The author does a fabulous job by depicting the slow determinedly metronomic downward spiral of Colleen, as she is on the verge of losing everything – her job, her friends, the love of her life, and her dignity.
The story is gut-wrenching. How you help someone who does not want to be helped? An especially low moment is when she takes vodka in a salad dressing bottle to a job interview and accidentally drops it in the washroom floor, splattering the contents. Just when you think there is hope for her, she takes another drink and burrows herself deeper into a hole of insanity. Drink is her only constant. I suppose that’s why “they don’t call them spirits for nothing”.
Lauren B. Davis writing style in this book is almost poetic. She moves from Colleen’s past to the present with ease and purpose, revealing only enough to keep us thirsty for more. Like watching a train wreck we want to know what will happen to her. We want to root for her, but as the story unfolds it is impossible to see how she will break out of this spell that intoxicates her.
Collen’s arc need not be set in stone –the reader turns pages compelled anticipating the next twist, the next conflict, a possible epiphany– yet the anticipation of resolution by salvation brings our heavy hearts to fruition.
5/5 Sukasa Stars