The borderline lifestyle of twenty-year-old Christian White is a carnival of drugs and sex, accessorized by designer clothes and frequent stealing or scamming. Underneath the decadence are haunting memories of childhood abuse, the death of a brother and a father’s criminal past.
Expecting to make a fresh start, Christian relocates from San Francisco to New York, just as his friends are being rounded up by the police; but life only spirals farther out of control in the new setting. Instead of drugs, Christian’s existence is beginning to center around sex. He has let himself slip into prostitution, and he may have even played a part in the murder of a successful architect, although he can’t remember the evening entirely. It has become increasingly clear to Christian that the only way to save himself is to come to terms with the past, no matter how painful ~ or how dangerous ~ the trip.
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
White, Christian is an incredible whirlwind from start to finish. Frantic, painful, obsessive, destructive, and yearning, this is a story about a lost young man. From a dysfunctional childhood to an abusive father and a religiously destructive mother, Christian struggles to be something. His path of mistakes, missteps, and errors is not necessarily one filled with hope or envy. There is a tiny light at the end of the tunnel but the yearning has only changed pitch. Unfortunately after such an intense story there isn’t a traditional happy ending, but there is a sense of accomplishment and closure.
The story is told in first person, present tense from Christian’s perspective. He explains how he needs to escape his Connecticut home and moves to San Francisco. Once there, he drops out of school almost immediately and lives a transient life of drugs with an abusive drug dealing boyfriend. When not starving and too cracked out to sleep, Christian writes and performs poetry. The artist soul is consumed with addiction though.
The first part of the story is Christian’s San Francisco adventures. Here the crazy pace of drugs, clubbing, and illegal activities repeats like a broken record. Very little wakes Christian from his perpetual downward spiral. The honest, graphic details are exposed but Christian’s drug haze throws up a barrier to the real, gritty emotion. This helps the reader to continue reading and ironically keeps Christian from ever understanding how far he sinks. The bare prose never embellishes but instead offers facts from a broken mind.
The way Christian sees the world, his actions, and his memories is what makes the story so compelling. Well written and engaging, the writing sucks you in from the beginning and never lets go. I couldn’t and didn’t want to put down this story, even as it became obvious this was not a road to redemption. Instead it’s a chronicle of a sad individual yearning so desperately for something he can’t even identify. Christian’s lost childhood is remembered piece by piece during his downward spiral. When he hits the bottom, even that doesn’t so much as shock Christian as expose even more painful, hidden memories of his father.
Christian’s time in New York is scarcely any better as he turns to selling himself to make money. Not surprising is that through all of this Christian manages to keep a day job but is so unsatisfied with his life, so consumed with the need for something else, that he is more at home in the drug induced painful world of prostitution even as it tears away at his mind and soul. When Christian finally achieves a bit of closure at the end of the story, you know that he can’t simply be the perfect example of recovery. He may want to be in some part of him, but he craves a deeper satisfaction that isn’t achieved with the mundane activity of existing. Perhaps he’ll find it but no matter what Christian White is a compelling, fascinating character that comes alive with touches of brilliance and vivid prose.
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