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Thirty Rooms to Hide In: Insanity,…

Thirty Rooms to Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock 'n' Roll…

by Luke Longstreet Sullivan

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Memoir about growing up with alcoholic father. Many things familiar. ( )
  akh3966 | May 19, 2014 |
This is a book you will not want to put down. It will make you laugh out loud and cry from beginning to end, and is a heartbreaking chronology of a family's history in an unusual town. It took a lot of guts to write this story and it has a lot to say about the gradual and insidious path that sucks people down into addiction without reprieve. It also reminds us that this path cuts a swath through everyone's lives and the fallout remains for years to come.
The author is correct in pointing out that wives could not easily escape from this destructive web as the societal, economic and family pressures were overwhelmingly against them getting out of such relationships. There really weren't any battered women's shelters in Rochester at that time, and the best one could hope for were family friends who could intervene at some level. The pressures in Rochester, at the time, to downplay these kinds of family problems was enormous. I am amazed that Mrs. Sulllivan was as proactive as she was in protecting her children. I can also understand how their family life went down the slippery slope that it did.
His brother Chris points out that they survived all this because of their mother, grandfather, educational opportunities, time and a great sense of humor and (I suspect) irony. There are many families who cannot laugh at their problems, and I think those are the families who are also most at risk for going under. I am glad this family came out the other side, but am sorry they paid such a high price to do so.
I could not put this book down. You won't be able to either. There are many books out there that discuss dysfunctional families and problems with addiction, but I found that this was incredibly well written and insightful. I was given this book by the
University of Minnesota Press. ( )
  MaryAnn12 | Apr 4, 2013 |
I could use many words to describe this heartfelt memoir. Words like insightful, compassionate, heartbreaking but most of all it is a memoir about a family. A family that started out like all families, actually a little above socioeconomically, as the father is a respected neurosurgeon at the Mayo clinic. It shows how insidious the effects of drugs and alcohol are on a person and the whole family structure. How easily one become enslaved and how hard it is to throw the addiction off. Six boy, one mother, so many of these stories were delightful, humorous and ones I could definitely relate to having 5 boys myself. Their mother was a remarkable woman, in the fifties few options were open for a woman alone, and with six children even less. Yet she did the best she could, actually she coped remarkably well. That her sons love her is apparent as well. This is a brave, no holds barred, but not without many incidents of humor and love, told memoir about an ordinary family that had to deal with extraordinary circumstances. ( )
  Beamis12 | Jan 21, 2013 |
At one time Luke's father was a top orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic. Alcoholism turned him into a verbally abusive man, one who slowly descends into madness.

I found this book to be very repetitive. It went over the same event multiple times, merely switching from journal entries to interviews to recollections. This was a bit excessive. The information about the funeral dragged on and on. It was at the beginning of the book and them repeated almost verbatim at the end of the book. I loved the superhero passages, they felt exactly like something a little boy would daydream about. Overall, the book could use some editing. ( )
  JanaRose1 | Dec 12, 2012 |
THIRTY ROOMS TO HIDE IN by Luke Longstreet Sullivan

Luke Sullivan is one of six sons of Dr. Charles Roger Sullivan, who led the Mayo Clinic Orthopedic Surgery section in the 1950s and -60s. He chronicles the odyssey of his family as Dr. Sullivan descends slowly but surely into the nightmare of alcoholism, dragging his wife, Mary, and their children through the madness and horror. This is a brutally honest narrative of growing up in the insanity that develops around an alcoholic parent. The medical community's "knowledge" of alcoholism then was based on a lack of information, false assumptions and the societal paradigm wherein a husband and father had "most favored status" in family life, both legal and personal. Among most men of that era, there was a "club" mentality of protecting and covering for all members, accepting their excuses for bad behavior, favoring them in family disputes, discounting wives and other family members words, thus condoning the behavior and facilitating its continuance.

Luke Sullivan illustrates the love and humor in the lives of his siblings and parents, with descriptions of the hilarious antics of the brothers reminiscent of Jean Kerr's "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" as they do stupid, dangerous, creative, things in their thirty-room home and on the several acres surrounding it. He shows how each family member develops in the armed camp atmosphere of their dysfunctional family over the years and how the brothers both bond together and isolate while dealing with their father's alcoholism. Some activities were seriously dangerous (!) but they managed to survive their own childhood and become successful, well-adjusted adults.

The real hero was Mary Sullivan who learned to protect and raise her sons in as loving and healthy a way possible, despite the constantly deteriorating personal climate of their lives. A highly intelligent, erudite woman who maintained her sanity through a lifetime correspondence with her father, her only source of emotional support, Mary strove to protect her children from their father's verbal/emotional abuse, including taking all six and going to a motel to spend the night as Dr. Sullivan's drinking became more out of control.

Luke Sullivan is a true "insider" who not only did exhaustive research about how each person in the family felt and responded to the stress in their lives, but who writes as one who has learned pretty much everything known about the disease of alcoholism. He writes without bitterness or anger at the cards he and his family were dealt and paints a poignant picture of their struggles and triumphs, with honesty and love, including the description of his father as a brilliant, dedicated, driven man striving to improve knowledge in his field for the betterment of all, who suffered from a devastating disease that ruined his life and destroyed his relationships with family, friends and colleagues.

The story of this highly personal subject, without blaming or whining about the injustice of it all, is well-written and admirable. I highly recommend this book to anyone -- not just those whose lives have been touched or scarred by alcoholism. "Thirty Rooms to Hide In" is a testament to the strength of the human spirit to overcome adversity, quietly compelling and inspiring.

I thank the publisher for providing me a free copy in exchange for a review. I will post it on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, LibraryThing and my blog at www.museofhellreviews.wordpress.com ( )
  MuseofHell | Oct 7, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 081667955X, Hardcover)

Author Luke Longstreet Sullivan has a simple way of describing his new memoir: “It’s like The Shining . . . only funnier.” And as this astonishing account reveals, the comment is accurate. Thirty Rooms to Hide In tells the story of Sullivan’s father and his descent from being one of the world’s top orthopedic surgeons at the Mayo Clinic to a man who is increasingly abusive, alcoholic, and insane, ultimately dying alone on the floor of a Georgia motel. For his wife and six sons, the years prior to his death were years of turmoil, anger, and family dysfunction; but somehow, they were also a time of real happiness for Sullivan and his five brothers, full of dark humor and much laughter.

Through the 1950s and 1960s, the six brothers had a wildly fun and thoroughly dysfunctional childhood living in a forbidding thirty-room mansion, known as the Millstone, on the outskirts of Rochester, Minnesota. The many rooms of the immense home, as well as their mother’s loving protection, allowed the Sullivan brothers to grow up as normal, mischievous boys. Against a backdrop of the times—the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, fallout shelters, JFK’s assassination, and the Beatles—the cracks in their home life and their father’s psyche continue to widen. When their mother decides to leave the Millstone and move the family across town, the Sullivan boys are able to find solace in each other and in rock ’n’ roll.

As Thirty Rooms to Hide In follows the story of the Sullivan family—at times grim, at others poignant—there is a wonderful, dark humor that lifts the narrative. Tragic, funny, and powerfully evocative of the 1950s and 1960s, Thirty Rooms to Hide In is a tale of public success and private dysfunction, personal and familial resilience, and the strange power of humor to give refuge when it is needed most, even if it can’t always provide the answers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:41 -0400)

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