In this powerful memoir of addiction, prison, and recovery, a reporter and a photographer tell their gripping story of falling in love, the heroin habit that drove them apart, and the unlikely way a criminal conviction brought them back together.
When Susan Stellin asked Graham MacIndoe to shoot her author photo for an upcoming travel book, she barely knew him except for a few weekends with mutual friends at a summer house in Montauk. He was a gregarious, divorced Scotsman who had recently gotten sober; she was an independent New Yorker who decided to take a chance on a rough-around-the-edges guy. But their relationship was soon tested when Susan discovered that Graham still had a drug habit he was hiding.
From their harrowing portrayal of the ravages of addiction to the stunning chain of events that led to Graham's arrest and imprisonment at Rikers Island, Chancers unfolds in alternating chapters that offer two perspectives on a relationship that ultimately endures against long odds. Susan follows Graham down the rabbit hole of the American criminal justice system, determined to keep him from becoming another casualty of the war on drugs. Graham gives a stark, riveting description of his slide from brownstone Brooklyn to a prison cell, his gut-wrenching efforts to get clean, and his fight to avoid getting exiled far away from his son and the life he built over 20 years.
Beautifully written, brutally honest, yet filled with suspense and hope, Chancers will resonate with anyone who has been touched by the heartache of addiction, the nightmare of incarceration, or the tough choice of leaving or staying with someone who is struggling on the road to recovery. By sharing their story, Susan and Graham show the value of talking about topics many of us are too scared to address.
©2016 Susan Stellin and Graham MacIndoe (P)2016 Random House Audio
"Emotionally resonant and evenly structured, their tandem chronicle resists overly romanticizing their bittersweet interactions to focus on the dedication and devotion necessary to make their already-complicated relationship survive the fallout of critical hardships. An emotionally complex and intensely personal binary memoir of addiction and sustainable love." (Kirkus Reviews)
I read about this memoir in the British Journal of Photography. Addiction and recovery are not topics that I normally choose as reading material but I was intrigued by Graham MacIndoe's back story as a celebrity photographer who had made the leap from small town Scotland to the bright lights of Manhattan. I was also drawn to the dual-memoir structure told by MacIndoe and his partner, New York Times journalist Susan Stellin.
Towards the end of the book Stellin raises a crucial question. Do we as a society really believe in rehabilitation? I'd never before given the matter any thought. Having finished Chancers, I would have to admit no, I don't think we do. MacIndoe's account of his time in prison, most notably in immigration detention after serving time at Riley's for a drug possession misdemeanour, is an eye-opener. Those inmates lucky enough to be released are dumped at the bus station without money, phone or even a jacket and expected to get back on their feet.
At times, Stellin does emerge as a saintly figure but she's wise to that and up for the takedown with the wry humour that I strongly suspect to be the spark that keeps them together despite everything.
"It's easy to say I love you, it's showing it that's hard," writes Stellin. I think it's fair to say by the end of the book they have both passed that particular life lesson with flying colours.
A very gripping true story - I am so naive about drugs it has helped me understand what it must be like for addicts and their loved ones to encounter. Susan's strength and encouragement is remarkable and Graham I'm glad your back to the caring better person you were before all of this. Keep up the good work and continue the book letting us know about the good times.
"Skillful mix of personal and political"
I listened to the audio version of Chancers during a road trip and was immediately drawn into the memoir, which is narrated by the authors themselves. It is an amazing love story but extends beyond the personal realm, delving into addiction, criminal justice, and immigration. I found it rivoting and can easily imagine it becoming a Hollywood movie.
"AMAZING! THANK YOU SUSAN AND GRAHAM! INSPIRING!"
I listened to this audio book and finished it in two days. My husband an addict like me actually bought a splitter so that we could listen to the book together! We too struggled with addiction in the past, we started using together after a solid year of being together. I desperately wanted to stop and did while he had a much harder time. He had been incarcerated for over a year and his 3 kids will no longer speak to him. However, hearing your story has helped us both by just knowing it is possible to trust again and to stay clean and move on. Thank you Susan for not giving up on someone who had given up on himself and thank you Graham for your willingness to share your story and your openness. Seeing the pictures online that you took while using where so powerful! I've saved a few just as a ill reminder of where heroin WILL take us if we don't stay on top of our health, healing and recovery! god bless you both and thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!
Excellent! Loved the window into a life unfamiliar to mine. I was captivated by the complexity of addiction, immigration, living in NYC and the evolution of Susan and Graham's relationship.
Very well written and just an awesome collaboration between these two! I should add very well read also! It had been a while since an Audible Book gripped me like this. Thank you both for sharing your story.
First of all, I am thankful I downloaded this book. I don't know what makes me do it, and it packs a powerful punch for me. The fact that it is real life makes it more potent. Wow, Graham what a journey. It makes me think how easy it is to be addicted, and how it demeans and destroys peoples' lives. The fact that he survived to tell this story shows how strong he is.
Susan, am telling you, you are a better woman than I am. The way she fought, stood by Graham and love him is reminiscent of a woman to have as an advocate. That was some powerful emotions which jumped at me from the pages of this book. This should be read by people who have families. Anything can happen to anybody. As a minor comment, Graham, stay away from Nancy. Thank you.
"Look at things differently"
This book made me look at individuals with addictions differently as I am working on my project about recovery.
"Very real and inspiring"
Unbelievable journey. So many aspects of the legal system that the average person would never know. Honest, heartbreaking, ultimately uplifting.
"A solid production of a beautiful story"
At first glance, this seemed like a story of a co-dependent woman desperately trying to make a relationship work with her lover, who happens to be a heroin addict. But as the story played out, it was clear that it was not that at all. This is a story of pure, unconditional love, told in all its beauty, pain and tragedy. At the end of the story, I was left with a profound respect and admiration for both of them. On a side note, I'm glad that they read for themselves. What it lacked in voice, it gained in intimacy. I feel like I know both authors better after hearing their own authentic voices. All told, it was a solid production of beautiful story.
This story takes you into the depths of what it's like to be on both sides of addiction: the addict themselves and someone that loves them. Their story is told in a way that entangles you into the depths of a romance with drugs and another human being. Also, gives a peek into what it means to be a legal immigrant. Insightful story telling.
"Should be mandatory reading for High School Students"
There are so many lessons in this book. Not just the slide into severe substance abuse, the almost impossible recovery for addicts living in a society that criminalises an illness. But also the soulless way we treat people simply because they were born in another country, or because they're not Caucasian and English speaking.
The war on drugs is a failure, at no time was there any indication that drugs were inaccessible in society. The waste of money associated with this outdated and moralistic approach to a health issue is a crime.
The solutions are visible in this story, we just need to be brave enough to make a change, and weather the storm of criticism every time something goes wrong. Nothing could be worse than the current system.
Well done Authors! A story of determination and compassion.
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