Synopses & Reviews
I accepted the certainty of my untimely death with gallows humor and a calculator. I'd read somewhere that each cigarette you smoke knocks seven minutes off your time on the planet. To amuse myself, I did the math: 153,000 cigarettes = two years of my life, up in smoke."
Julia Hansen first lit up at nineteen. Twenty years later, she was editing books about health and smoking a pack or two a day. She denied her son fast food, but smoked in the house and car; curtailed his video games, but lit up at his soccer matches. Despite repeated attempts to quit, she always crawled back to her beloved menthol lights. Smoking had become a metaphorical chain around her neck, shackling her to an early death.
Haunted by a nightmarish vision of her future her son at her deathbed, begging her not to leave him Hansen devised a drastic quit method. She bought a 72-foot length of chain that was unwieldy as a corpse and locked herself to a radiator in her dining room. What followed: seven days of cold-turkey misery, comic absurdity, and revelation as Hansen stepped from behind her wall of smoke to face her addiction to nicotine and some painful truths.
Clanking around her house like Marley's ghost, white-knuckling cravings, and struggling to understand tobacco's unyielding grip on her, Hansen confronted her life in smoke: fractured relationships, lifelong battles with alcohol and depression, and a profound sense of emptiness. On day 1, the chain was her addiction to nicotine, each link a story about cigarettes and self-loathing. By day 7, it had revealed its ringing, rattling truth that every smoker has a story, and it always centers on clinging to a comfort that can kill you. In the end, Hansen's story was painfully simple: She smoked to survive her life. And then, to save it, she quit.
Fierce and funny, honest and utterly absorbing, A Life in Smoke is Julia Hansen's evocative and inspiring account of the extreme measures she took to quit smoking decidedly not recommended by the medical profession.
"Reader, beware: not only has Julia Hansen chronicled her final frontier of chemical addictions in a manner you'll stay up all night to finish, but she has penetrated the smoke screens we use to separate us from the terrors of loving and being loved. A Life in Smoke
will knock the breath out of you, making you treasure every fight with your dearest, every unwanted piece of advice from your mother, and every peanut butter hug you'll ever get."
-- Frances Kuffel, author of Passing for Thin: Losing Half My Weight and Finding Myself
"Creative similes...contribute to this compelling read, in which the drama of Hansen's life far outweighs the drama of being chained up." Library Journal
"With minor forays into the history of smoking and the technology associated with it, this is largely highly wrought introspection." Kirkus Reviews
"A memoir worth reading requires brutal honesty and a voice that grips from the start. Julia Hansen delivers both in a book that explains precisely how addiction takes hold and refuses to -- ever -- let go."
-- Amy Wilensky, author of The Weight of It and Passing for Normal
Recounts the author's seven-day effort to quit smoking, during which she chained herself to a radiator and explored her complex relationship with cigarettes as well as her past struggles with family members, men, and her own insecurities. 40,000 first printing.
In an unsparingly honest and personal account, one woman recounts the extreme measures she took to crush her deadly addiction to cigarettes, creating a tour de force that is at once riveting, hilarious, and life-affirming.
About the Author
Julia Hansen was born in 1963 in Vineland, New Jersey. She lives in Reading, Pennsylvania, with her husband and son.
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