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Kathleen Pooler
Just the Way He Walked
Kathy Pooler, author
Just the Way He Walked: A Mother’s Story of Healing and Hope is a story of how one woman’s simultaneous battles of Stage Four Non–Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and her young adult son’s addiction to alcohol and drugs test her resolve to never, ever give up hope. Written for parents, particularly mothers, of children who are addicted, this is a story of love, faith, hope, and breaking the cycle of addiction. Family relationships, father-son, mother-son, single parenting, the impact of addiction on families, and the need for education in breaking the cycle of addiction are all explored. The message of resilience and faith in the face of insurmountable odds serves as a testament of what is possible when one dares to hope.
Pooler (Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey away from Emotional Abuse) chronicles her son Brian’s tumultuous 23-year struggle with substance abuse and addiction in this emotional memoir. Beginning in his mid-teens, Brian’s life devolves into a cycle of episodic drug use and alcohol bingeing, periods of sobriety, new beginnings, lost opportunities, encounters with law enforcement, and a revolving door in and out of rehabilitation programs. Pooler, a single mother, tries to support Brian and his sister, Leigh Ann; pursue a career in nursing; and tentatively start dating again. When she’s diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, her identity as a caregiver is disrupted, and she gradually realizes that she needs to let Brian find his own path to wellness.

The narrative doesn’t shy away from exploring Brian’s father’s history of alcoholism as well as Pooler’s codependency with her son: “I needed to let go of my need to fix what he could and should do for himself,” she writes. “I continued to enable him, which robbed him of his ability to experience self-empowerment.” The book is primarily narrated by Pooler, but the inclusion of other relatives’ perspectives (filtered through Pooler’s recollections and voice) reminds the reader that addiction affects an entire family. The experiences, behaviors, and feelings of Pooler, Brian, and their loved ones are always at the forefront.

The short chapters and interludes mark the passage of time, introduce new characters, and delve deeper into connections and contrasts in Pooler and Brian’s intertwining stories. These elements are not always in chronological order, which can be disorienting but allows the reader to experience Pooler’s emotional roller coaster. Pooler refers often to her Catholic faith but doesn’t evangelize. An appendix includes concise lessons Pooler has learned, as well as resources for parents. Through telling her own story, Pooler provides a touchstone and plenty of hope for those facing similar challenges.

Takeaway: Anyone who’s seen a loved one wrestle with addiction will appreciate this gripping account of despair, hope, and redemption.

Great for fans of Great for fans of Robin Barnett and Darren Kavinoky’s Addict in the House, Lisa Hillman’s Secret No More.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A