Review — Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster by Kristen Johnston

Review by Kacy Muir

cover of Guts by Kristen Johnston picture of her with cigarette hanging from mouthThe brilliant Dr. Seuss once said, “We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”

Love is exactly the word that comes to mind when reading the memoir of actress and literary newcomer Kristen Johnston. Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster (Gallery Books, 2012) encompasses her brilliant journey from darkness to light.

No matter who you are, at one point in your life, you will encounter adversity. For some of us, this may be a constant battle, and for others, a fleeting and rare occurrence. In her memoir, Johnston divulges her exact experiences with adversity, from an adolescence of alienation, to an alcoholic, pill-popping adulthood.

But, after years of toxic debauchery, Johnston soon receives the most important wake-up call of all.

“The thought was immediately followed by the staggering realization that despite years of slowly killing myself, all I wanted, with more passion and ferocity than I’d ever wanted anything else in my entire life, was to live.”

Not only would Johnston live, but she would go forth to share her story, never again silent about her disease.

As Johnston implies, unless we are truly shut out from the world, every single one of us has privately or publicly dealt with addiction.  Whether using narcotics or obsessively cleaning our home, addiction, like many diseases, can make our world spin fast enough for us to lose our footing.

Much of the writing style reads like a discourse between Johnston and the reader.

While she may be crass and unapologetic, Johnston’s voice comes through as genuine and endearing.  As a result, there is a definite connection with Johnston in her efforts to offer guidance. The memoir also has a clever layout. Each chapter begins with a photograph that aptly speaks to the contents that follow.

While there is no shortage of celebrity memoirs, Johnston deviates by moving the focus to something bigger than herself. Instead of merely droning on about her follies, she triumphs in her ability to relay a message that resonates with anyone who has known struggle, only to find strength.

Guts is a vile, hilarious, unfortunate, and epic story of heart and soul. People who would enjoy this memoir include those who have or are currently struggling with addiction and/or alienation. But, most importantly, as Johnston notes, the memoir is dedicated to the freaks — the most loved of them all.

Hippocampus Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Kacy Muir, Reviewer
Kacy Muir is a freelance writer from New Brunswick, N.J. Her life and travels fill her works with such topics as guerrilla baking, Halloween, Bruce Springsteen, Marie Laveau, the search for the real-life Lloyd Dobler and of course, her furry companion, Poe. Kacy has been published in The Weekender, The Times Leader, NEPA Energy Journal, Blood Lotus and The Veillee. She is currently working on the next great American novel. Just kidding, she writes poetry and flash fiction.
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