I don’t read too many memoirs. It’s not that I’m uninterested in them, more of a I have too many other books to read and if I start tossing in memoirs, I’ll go broke and have no time to read anything. Then I saw Songs Only You Know by Sean Madigan Hoen sitting on the “discover new writers” shelf in the bookstore and I had to get it.
The thing that drew me in was Hoen’s involvement in the music world. He was involved in the Detroit punk scene of the 90’s. My best friend tuned me into the punk scene when we were in high school and, although I don’t follow it now, I still love to read books about it because it reminds me of my best friend and the good times we had. Sean’s story is about the struggle he faced with the self-implosion of his family as well as his own battle to come to terms with his own demons.
Hoen’s family started out in a good way but when his dad’s crack cocaine habit surfaces, things go to hell for everyone. Sean’s dad goes from bingeing to rehab over and over again. During this time Sean’s mom does her best to keep the family together and provide the support and love they need. At the same time Sean’s sister starts a spiral into depression that causes great heartache and sorrow for everyone. Sean deals with all the things going on by immersing himself into a band where he can hide from his family and let all his anger and emotions out.
Songs Only You Know is a well written but overall sad book. When his sister loses her battle with depression you can feel Sean’s pain and know that he will forever miss her. I teared up reading that part of the book – it was written with such emotion and true feeling and was refreshing to read something that wasn’t hidden by typical sentiments. I could identify with Sean because it seems as he internalized everything, something I do myself. Hoen doesn’t hold back, he admits his faults as well as is aware enough to know he needs to make a change. Although it does take a long time to realize this and a few relationships are lost because of this.
I thought this was a compelling and honest account of the writers life. I do wish he would have offered a better tie up at the end, but I don’t think Hoen has had that yet. And it’s really too much to ask someone offer up a nice clean ending when their past is so muddled.