From a searing new literary voice, a raw, compulsively readable memoir about a young man seeking hope, community, and ultimately recovery from addiction in a series of halfway houses and boys’ homes—the first book to so vividly capture this world.
In his late teens Tom Macher rebelled against a world that seemed stacked against him. Raised in a broken family and estranged from an absentee father suffering with AIDS, Macher turned to alcohol to escape the painful loneliness of his reality.
In quick succession, he is kicked out of school, and then his mother’s house, sent to a boys’ home in Montana, and later, a halfway house in a truck-stop town of Louisiana. It was there that Macher encounters a community of young men struggling to survive—outcasts and thieves, liars and ex-cons, men seeking redemption, men running from the past. As he moves further away from boyhood and embraces a hard-won sobriety, these men—the broken, the hardscrabble, the near gone—become his salvation.
Macher captures the trials of sobriety—suicide, death, recovery—and the unusual beauty that forms in the bonds of those who suffer. In visceral, striking prose, he introduces the unforgettable characters he meets along the way, from a former child actor, a young teen struggling with schizophrenia, a tough-love addiction counselor, a sex-addicted social worker, to Matt O, who became Macher’s loyal friend and wingman. Raw, disarming, frenetic, and subversive, Halfway is a brutally honest portrait of the world of down-and-out recovering alcoholics, and a story of how, in their darkest hour, these men create the bonds that form a family.
Tom Macher grew up in Georgia, New York, and California and spent his teenage years bouncing around from boys’ homes to halfway houses to communes in Montana, New York, and Louisiana. He attended Riverside City College, San Francisco State University, and The University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was a Teaching-Writing Fellow. He has twice received fiction fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Halfway is his first book.
“In his debut, Macher combines the personalized grandiosity of James Frey with the surreal perspective of Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son… [Macher] displays original language and descriptions of the lonesome addict's marginalized communities and warped perceptions. A fresh voice examining addiction and recovery through its sustaining relationships.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A powerful memoir…Macher’s carefully crafted, unsparing look at his troubled life is reminiscent of Jim Carroll’s The Basketball Diaries.” —Publishers Weekly
“I don’t remember the last book that made me cry. Halfway did. Not for the story or characters, the honesty and insight, the courage or lack of self-pity. What moved me was how good a writer Tom Macher is. This is remarkably beautiful prose about horrendous events—his own past. Read any one page and you will finish the book.“ —Chris Offutt, author of My Father the Pornographer
“Halfway is an epic, intimate journey through a world some may know but few have lived to tell the tale, and even fewer have told it with as much originality, humor, poetry and heart as Tom Macher. The extraordinary circumstances of a troubled boyhood, addiction, the violence and chaos of bouncing from city to city, commune to rundown apartment, boys home to halfway house, trailer to gutter are laid out here in indelible detail, yet, are often outshined by the genuine quest for friendship, connection, love, family, and belonging that run like big pulsing veins through this book. Macher is a talented storyteller and a captivating writer—he will break your heart and show you what others dare not even utter. Let him and you will be better for it.” —Jenny Zhang, author of Sour Heart
“In Tom Macher’s tough new memoir, halfway is a condition of the heart and soul as much as it is a refuge for wayward boys. Halfway is hope and halfway is despair, but by the end of this hard-fought and hard-won story, it’s a few of Faulkner’s old verities that carry the day: love and honor, pity and pride, courage and compassion. Many of the boys we meet along the way don’t make it, but one of them endures, and a lone voice survives, as Tom Macher returns to tell this beautiful tale.” —Charles d’Ambrosio, author of The Dead Fish Museum and Loitering
“This book shocks the senses as only good art can. Your view of America will be changed. In this procession of squalid group homes and cigarette-strewn trailers, AA confessionals and ill-lit parking lots, I'm reminded of Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice and Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son: an unknown world rises into view, but once you see it, it can never be forgotten or overlooked again.” —Matthew Neill Null, author of Allegheny Front
“Like all great works of nonfiction, Halfway is unclassifiable, yet monumentally human, absurd, shocking, and loving. The prose is high art, and the narration is wistful, wry and wise. It’s not so much about recovery from the abuse of substances as it’s about recovery from the accident and original tragedy of one’s birth. Tom Macher is a hearty and energetic storyteller. Go with him on this journey through masculinity and pain and you’ll discover an essential beauty.” —Tony Swofford, author of Jarhead
“This astonishing book told me everything I didn’t want to know about America’s bottomed out drunks and addicts and the bleak “houses” where some--the lucky ones?--find haven between relapses. Halfway slapped me around, yet gave me new respect for the harshly evolved codes of these knowing purgatories. Most of all, I felt an exhilaration, even a joy, in coming across a voice so brilliantly calibrated to make this life visible from inside. Tom Macher invented a unique language for the job, broken in pieces, muttered, slangy, more spat out than sung, yet eloquent, poetic in its way, and devastatingly clear.” —Jaimy Gordon, winner of the National Book Award for Lord of Misrule