5 Star Book Review of “Washed Up” by Alistair McHarg

There was no question I was going to buy and read “Washed Up,” by Alistair McHarg, after having read and loved “Invisible Driving” by the same author. Swept away by his memoir of Bipolar Disorder, I was equally disarmed by “Washed Up.” His memoir reads likes fiction, and “Washed Up” is his second work of fiction but it reads with the reality of nonfiction. In recovery himself, McHarg follows the adage to the “T” of “Write what you know!”

The Master of metaphor (and simile) in both books, in “Washed Up” McHarg shows us his talents at characterization. The characters are so real, I felt like they were a circle of friends, feeling for them, and feeling with them, through their individual lives.

Cat, my favorite, a gutsy, young woman who manages to sell sex (and somewhat kinky sex at that) to men, does so without losing respect for herself. Kinky sex pays very well and often is surprisingly asexual. This is the case here and we almost cheer Cat on, sympathizing with her that she has to earn her money this way, though she comes out of it relatively unscathed physically and emotionally. My real fascination with Cat was that she is the first exotic/erotic dancer/stripper I have met in literature or elsewhere and it is a totally intriguing peep into this line of work. I loved reading about what it was like dancing in the club where she performed.

We first meet Cat after the opening chapters in which we are introduced to some of the main characters, Ned, Brent, Andrew and Mickey, at an AA meeting. Cat appears out of nowhere and we wonder what in tarnation she has to do with these guys in AA and their wives whom we meet early on. But we find out soon enough.

The plots are interwoven like the threads of a spider’s web, captivating us with a simple complexity that engrosses. The wives and girlfriends of the AA guys and Cat suggest a theme on the strength of women in the world of “Washed Up.” The men are too preoccupied with recovery to fight the women’s feminine wiles and beguiling ways. An interesting theme by a male author.

Mickey was my other favorite character, epitomizing the virtues of caring within the organization of AA meetings that have helped so many. AA members may be powerless over alcohol but they are powerfully “there” for each other. Although not always. In “Washed Up, we see they are not all saints, when jealousy rears its ugly head within the intricacies of the intertwining relationships and plot shifts.

The ending is powerfully understated and brought a tear to my eyes. We go through thick and thin with these guys and their somehow powerful women and we come to care for their welfare.

Like “Invisible Driving,” “Washed Up” would make a good movie thanks to McHarg’s excellent storytelling abilities and the visual writing that make the scenes appear before our eyes. He uses emotional rhythms and syncopated plot twists to create a seamless sequence of memorable jazz.

(Click  for information on, and to purchase my Bipolar/Asperger’s memoir.)

2 responses

  1. Good post. Very helpful. Thanks for the info.


    September 6, 2012 at 12:55 PM

  2. Great post. Very helpful. Thanks for the info.


    September 8, 2012 at 12:06 AM

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