This was a tough read you guys, it gave me a lot to think about. We all know someone who struggles with addiction in some form and reading this story, I had a lot of aha moments.
The Painting and The Piano is an improbable story of survival and love.
The childhoods of Johnny and Adrianne couldn’t have been more different. Not only were they born more than one-thousand miles apart, but the cultural and financial contrasts between their respective childhoods are equally as stark.
Old-money wealth and privilege defined Johnny’s childhood in Ladue, Missouri, which is to St. Louis what Scarsdale is to New York City or Beverly Hills to Los Angeles. From the moment of his birth, Johnny’s world was private clubs, private schools, private jets, high-society etiquette, and a loving nanny named Lizzy.
Middleclass Jewish values, bickering but loving parents, and the distinct character of Long Island defined Adrianne’s early life. It was public school, public transportation, Jones Beach, and Lawn Guyland rather than Long Island or tawk instead of talk.
However, Johnny and Adrianne’s childhoods share a tragic parallel that damaged each to the core of their psyche, their emotional well-being, and brought both to the brink of death.
Where their story diverges from so many others is that rather than fall into the darkness, Johnny and Adrianne reached for the light. Thus began their respective journeys of healing, which led from the slow death of addiction to a serendipitous meeting, falling in love and building a shared life dedicated to the service of others.
Told as a tandem narrative, Adrianne and Johnny pass their respective stories of childhood trauma and abuse, addiction, healing, and final triumph of love back and forth in alternating chapters. Their stories are unique, but share parallels that create a taut and emotionally compelling narrative.
During the first few chapters of the book, exploring Johnny and Adrianne’s early childhoods, I will admit to feeling confused and almost unsympathetic towards Johnny’s story. I couldn’t help making comparisons between what he experienced and what Adrianne experienced and feeling that she was far worse off than him. It was only later on in the book that I began to understand how Johnny’s childhood ultimately shaped the course his life would take. Sometimes you can spot a tragedy immediately, other times it can take years to really understand the full effect of a tragedy and that was how I felt about Johnny’s story.
As a mother of two adopted daughters, Adrianne’s story was like a punch in the gut. It scared me and made me realize how much adoption and fostering has changed in the last 10 years, switching from being focused soley on the rights of biological parents to now operating in the best interests of the child.
While there is no doubt that both Johnny and Adrianne’s parents (in Adrianne’s case, her biological parents) were selfish, damaged people, it was a reminder to me of how we are all a product of our upbringing’s no matter how good or bad that may be. Their stories caused me to take a long, hard, look at my own children and how they experience us as parents, what will their narrative be one day? How will how we are raising them, impact on them and shape them as adults? How will they walk through the world one day, based on their experiences during their formative and childhood years?
Johnny also talks about his process to recovery, about how he had to accept what he had been and recognize his mistakes and at times, his arrogance, in order to fully be in recovery. He referred to the mistakes he had made with his own recovery as Johnny’s Anonymous. And it was only when he could recognize that arrogance and unwillingness to surrender to the steps of the program, that he was able to find recovery. This made me think about the people I know who have struggled with addiction, those who have overcome and those who have failed in their sobriety. They only ever get so far in their recovery and then ultimately fail, because in their own arrogance, they think they know better, think they can manipulate the steps of recovery to suite them, to fit in with them and recovery from addiction just doesn’t work that way. Johnny’s story illustrated what that meant, the full surrender to the steps and to acknowledging his failings and then moving forward with his sobriety.
This is an intelligently written, thought provoking narrative that I’d highly recommend to everyone. It’s a story of surrender and triumph. Of failure and growth. Of changing paths, self enlightenment and victory over the DNA chains of our pasts.
You can get your copy of The Painting And The Piano here:
I was sent a copy of this book by Book Publicity Services in exchange for an honest review. If I’m going to say one negative thing about this book, it would be this: I read a hard copy and I found the font size and style difficult to read at times.
But still worth reading, every single page!