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by Dan Barden
Dial Press, March 2012
283 pages
ISBN: 038534340X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE NEXT RIGHT THING provides an insider's view of Alcoholics Anonymous and the recovery process. The cast of characters consists of a group of people who are at various stages in conquering addiction through membership in AA. They range from Terry Elias, who has been sober for 15 years and served as a sponsor to many, to several folks who are nearer the beginning of going through the 12-step recovery process.

The least likely person to succumb to the siren call of drugs would seem to be Terry. He has been an inspiration to many and helped countless people to continue to work on their recovery. Yet he is found dead of a heroin overdose. He has served as best friend and confidant to Randy Chalmers, sober for a few years now, who feels that Terry never would have been tempted to shoot up after so many years of sobriety. He seeks answers to the questions he has around Terry's death and is aided by several other recovering addicts, most notably a young man, Troy, who has just finished the fourth step of the program and wants Randy to be his sponsor. What they learn is surprising. There are various schemes involving hydroponic pot farming, shady real estate transactions and Web porn. It was heartening to learn that Terry's long-held dream of fathering a child had been realized, but sad to think that he would never be a part of the family that he craved.

THE NEXT RIGHT THING is a debut novel; and as such, it has plusses and minuses. I found it hard to get a handle on the characters until midway through the book, and the plot relied too much on coincidences. The overall, writing, however, is strong; and Barden brings a lot of empathy and understanding to the ongoing struggles of the addict trying to stay straight.

Dan Barden is a recovering alcoholic, and he has provided an intimate view of how AA works. The focus on people in various stages of recovery was quite eye opening. We see their internal struggles and how difficult it is to conquer addiction, even years of being sober. THE NEXT RIGHT THING could easily have been a lament for lost lives, but instead it is really a story of hope and love.

Formerly a training development manager for a large company, Maddy is now retired and continues to enable the addiction of crime fiction fans as owner of the online discussion group, 4 Mystery Addicts(4MA), while avidly reading in every possible free moment herself.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, March 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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