October Book Club: COST by Roxana Robinson

Cost The October EDIWTB book club selection was Cost, by Roxana Robinson. It's an intense novel about a family – mom Julia Lambert, her ex-husband Wendell, and their two grown sons Jack and Steven. Jack, the younger son, is addicted to heroin, and the book takes place mostly over four days when the family learns of the addiction and tries to figure out how to deal with it, including staging an intervention and hiring an addiction counselor.

I found Cost to be an engaging read, albeit difficult at times.The subject matter is terrifying. As a parent, what do you do when your child is under the influence of a ravaging, relentless chemical that renders him completely unfamiliar? To what lengths will you go to bring him back? Robinson explores, in great detail, what each member of Jack's family goes through to come to terms with his situation. She gives the greatest attention to Julia, but her narration weaves in and out of several other characters' heads, ultimately painting a very detailed, thorough picture of this family's tragedy.

This book is so incredibly detailed that you can almost go on autopilot as a reader. Robinson leaves nothing vague or unexplored in Cost. This isn't meant as criticism, at all – it's just a particular style of writing, and one that I do enjoy. The fact that time was so compressed in this book, combined with the carefully detailed storytelling, made reading it almost claustrophobic at times. I have to believe this was intentional, for that's what the characters must have felt as things passed from bad to worse.

Here is a great passage that conveys the intensity of Julia's feelings during Jack's addiction:

Someday this would all be over. In twenty years, ten, it would be over; somehow it would be resolved, but how? There were moments when she thought she could not bear it any longer, she could not bear it, but she could not stop it. Jack and heroin made that relentless bass line, that terrible thudding constant in her consciousness. There was nothing else so strong, nothing she could do to stop it. Her cell phone was always on, and each time it rang, her heart lurched with dread.

I found my heart lurching with dread, a bit, too, as I read Cost.

The Q&A at the end of the paperback version of Cost reveals that Robinson did meticulous research into the world of heroin addiction, talking to addicts, families, doctors, counselors, and policemen before she wrote the book. Her research paid off – her book is an impressive exploration of a world with which many people may be unfamiliar. It is also a powerful examination of family dynamics (many of which have nothing to do with addiction), told from many perspectives.

I highly recommend Cost, and am so glad that I read it. I know that it will stay with me for a long time.

I'd love to hear from the other participants in the Cost book club. Please share your thoughts about the book. And if you have questions you'd like Roxanna Robinson to answer, leave them in your comment or email them to me at [email protected].