Born to lose

March 13, 2006

Memoirs of a Compulsive Gambler

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From Publishers Weekly
A gambling addiction can be as destructive and as life-altering as any other addiction, and former human resources exec and Lake Tahoe regular Lee has a story to prove it. Breezily written and compelling, Lee’s book chronicles his slow descent. He starts by reminiscing about his 1950s and ’60s San Francisco childhood, about the genetic aspects of such addictions (Lee’s Chinese grandfather was sold as a young boy to pay off his own father’s gambling debts), and about Lee’s father’s struggles with gambling. The author’s own addictions flare up when he plays the stock market (which he persuasively describes as legalized gambling), and when he needs to escape the emotional pressures of his high-stress consulting job. After falling tens of thousands of dollars into debt, Lee finally finds the strength to attend a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting, and the remainder of the book describes his difficult recovery. As a memoir of addiction, this work is hardly as lurid as some other, more popular chronicles. What sets it apart are the details about the ways in which Lee’s Chinese heritage played into his addiction and healing, providing an unusual look at the issue. Agent, Susan Rabiner. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
Although the title of this book makes it sound like it might be a movie-of-the-week, true-confessions type of tearjerker, it is not. In one sense, it’s a very straightforward account of a man’s self-destructive tendencies and his battle to find some way to live with them. But look more closely, and you will find the deeply affecting, often frightening story of a man who was doomed almost from the day he was born. Lee came out of the kind of family few of us can imagine: an alcoholic, sexually abusive, compulsive-gambler father; a suicidal, possibly schizophrenic mother; an older brother who beat the author “to a bloody pulp” on a regular basis. By the time he was 8 years old, Lee had developed an -obsessive-compulsive disorder; by age 10, he was playing (very badly) blackjack and poker on a regular basis. The author’s perceptiveness, his ability to see his own flaws and to avoid falling into the trap of self-pity (or blaming others for his own actions), make this story of self-destruction and redemption surprisingly powerful. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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