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  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Fiction
  • by: Jade Sharma
  • Date Published: July 2016
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-56689-442-5
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 208pp
  • Price: $16.95
  • Review by: Katy Haas
Maya has problems. In fact, Maya has Problems with a capital P. She’s in a boring marriage with Peter, an alcoholic with a conservative family she doesn’t fit into. She’s having an affair with Ogden, one of her former professors who is more than twice her age. She struggles with an eating disorder. Her mother has MS and struggles to care for herself. There are changes happening at her job which may leave her desperate for money. And she juggles all these problems under the haze of her biggest problem: a budding addiction to heroin. Jade Sharma guides us through the haze in her forthcoming, aptly-named novel, Problems.

With drug addiction, failing and toxic relationships, eating disorders, and extramarital affairs, Sharma covers some heavy topics within the first few pages, but does so in such a quick-witted, humorous way, it’s sometimes easy to forget we’re essentially watching a train wreck. Maya becomes that sarcastic friend who mutters all the sassy thoughts we’re too afraid to say ourselves:
He had gotten fat, and his status updates were about the food he cooked. . . . And then there was a picture of what looked like sad brown food covered in a fat scoop of sour cream on a terra cotta plate. Why did seventeen people like this? Why did some girl named Terry need the recipe to make it for "her hubby"?
The word "hubby" made me cringe.
The humor and sarcasm aid in keeping readers’ more sentimental sympathies at bay. Maya has problems: we watch her accumulate more as the novel progresses, and we sympathize, but she also glosses it over with a biting sense of humor and a cynical eye. She continuously brings these problems upon herself, again and again, trapped in the cycle of addiction.

This might be a turnoff for some readers: to watch a character repeatedly make similar mistakes and questionable choices, which become more questionable as the pages go by. But Maya addresses this: "There are cycles you get stuck in, and sometimes you have to go around the cycle way too many times," bringing up the image of a whirlpool. If you get out, you "never feel like it was easy," and if you don’t fight to get out, you’re completely swallowed.

This isn’t the first book that covers the unglamorous side of addiction and it won’t be the last, but Sharma gives us Maya, a fresh voice. She’s vulgar, she’s funny, she’s bold, bawdy, insightful, and she has the voice of a woman, a twist to the usual heroin-narrative with thoughts and worries that are unique to women and to a woman’s experience with addiction.

Sharma may give readers some problems—not everyone will love Maya or want to stick around to watch her spiral—but we’re also given a unique narrator that feels real enough to touch in a story that can be devoured in a day. And, hey, we all have problems. Pick up this one in July.

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Review Posted on April 05, 2016

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