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Author Biography: Richard Mosher lives in St. Paul, Minnestota. He is the author of one previous novel for young people, The Taxi Navigator, published by Putnam. This is his first book for Clarion.
Amid old secrets revealed and rifts healed, a thirteen-year-old Vietnamese orphan raised in rural France by her aging "Grand-Pierre" learns about life, death, and love.
From the very first paragraph, Mosher's vivid imagery makes Zazoo's world come to life. . . .This book is her tale, a romance with a little history thrown in, and it is told well.
VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
Zazoo is a beautiful and lyrical novel, with poetry woven throughout. It is a story of love, devotion, and unwavering commitment that bridges generations and cultures.
School Library Journal, Starred
A lyrical book about memory and living with loss.
SLJ Best Books of the Year
Readers will be swept away by the evocative images and emotive scenes in this story, offering a mix of bitter and sweeet.
Publishers Weekly, Starred
[T]his finely crafted novel, told in Zazoo's authentic first-person narrative, speaks to more than one message; it also evokes the quiet passage of the seasons and the joys of friendship. A novel with a big message well told through the smallest details.
To find out how people whose lives have been troubled by alcohol have overcome their difficulties, I decided to turn to the foremost experts — those who have actually done it, people who have mastered their former alcohol problems in different ways.* I wanted to determine exactly what these "masters" did — what specific strategies they used — to get sober and stay sober. My call for information was answered by hundreds whose drinking at its worst ranged from what many of us might define as a social drinker's quota to more than a fifth of hard liquor a day. (All of the 222 masters completed a seven-page questionnaire about their drinking pasts, the turning points, how they resolved their alcohol problems, and how they got on with their lives.)
Who Are the Masters?
The masters came to me through postage-paid flyers distributed in public places across the country, advertisements and listings in newspapers and special-interest magazines, postings on the Internet, and recovery groups. Some masters knew me or had heard about my work through a friend.
They come from all walks of life — they're attorneys, maintenance workers, former topless dancers, college professors, physicians, schoolteachers, homemakers, engineers, judges,former bartenders, current bartenders, nurses, and journalists. They're Christians and atheists, gay and straight, people from their twenties to their eighties who got sober anywhere from their teens through their fifties and sixties. They include husbands and wives who got sober together as well as a mother and her two grown children who all quit on their own but at different times. A quarter of them are recovery group leaders, mental health professionals, and/or chemical dependency counselors, so they know sobriety from both ends, as former problem drinkers and as experienced helpers of those who are still struggling. Gender-wise, there is close to an even split: 54 percent of the masters are men and 46 percent are women.
Along with stories of people who were rendered destitute because of their drinking, I wanted to include the experiences of people with mild or moderate alcohol problems, because little help is available for them, despite the fact that they are thought to outnumber stereotypical brown-bag "alcoholics" by three or four to one. Therefore, the stories of the masters' drinking days vary from sagas of high-functioning drinkers who were able to raise families and move upward professionally despite their alcohol abuse to those of hard-core "drunks" who describe loss of jobs, health, children, and dignity. The masters' drinking at its worst ranged from a reported three to five daily drinks for some people up to two daily quarts of vodka for one man.
At the lower end of the scale, Janet C. (who believes she was "chiefly mentally addicted" to alcohol but considers herself to be an "alcoholic" nonetheless) typically had two or three single-shot martinis before dinner and one or two scotches with soda afterward —
surely beyond healthy drinking, but not what most people think of when they picture the stereotypical "alcoholic." Although she felt that her drinking kept her from being a good parent to her two teenagers, she was always responsible enough to know that she "didn't dare drive" them around in the evenings.
At the other extreme, the two-quart-a-day vodka drinker, George M., attributes all of the following to his drinking: "My wife left me; I lost my career, my possessions, my teeth, and much of my eyesight; my friends disappeared. I lived in a spare bedroom in my mother's house, soiled the bed often, had drunk driving and disorderly conduct arrests, and was suicidal." (With the help of AA, he has been sober for more than five years now.) Like George, a number of other masters once abused drugs such as marijuana and cocaine in addition to alcohol. For all but five of them, alcohol was the drug of choice.
Nearly all of the masters have been continuously sober for five or more years;* the average length of sobriety for the entire group is just over thirteen years. Two thirds of them have at least a decade of sobriety.
Sobriety Means Different Things to Different People For most of the masters, sobriety is synonymous with abstinence. For the vast majority, abstinence turns out to be the best policy: nine out of ten are totally abstinent.
Others have a small amount of alcohol on very rare occasions - - say, when making a toast at a wedding reception. About one out of ten of the masters are near-abstinent, occasional, or moderate drinkers, which challenges the notion that one sip of alcohol will lead you back to full-blown "alcoholism." For serious problem drinkers and those who are already contentedly abstinent, however, consuming any alcohol can be a risky proposition.
While most people think of sobriety as total abstinence, Webster's Tenth Collegiate Dictionary defines "sober" not as "abstinent" but as "1 a: sparing in the use of food and drink:
abstemious. b: not addicted to intoxicating drink. c: not drunk . . .
4. marked by temperance, moderation, or seriousness." The masters whom I call sober, then, are those who have resolved their alcohol problems and gotten on top of their drinking, usually through abstinence but sometimes through moderate or occasional drinking.
I sought the masters' help in answering such questions as these:
How important is it to admit to yourself and others that you are an "alcoholic"?
Can you recover — and stay recovered — without going to a recovery group?
If you get sober with the help of a recovery group, do you have to keep going forever?
What about treatment at places like the Betty Ford Center and hospital alcohol programs — is it necessary?
Where do you turn if you have issues about your drinking but don't really feel you're an "alcoholic"?
Is it true that you have to "hit bottom" in order to become motivated to deal with a drinking problem?
Before taking action, are most people "in denial" about their drinking problems?
Do you wake up one morning and say, "That's it: I quit"? If so, what gets you to that point, and does everything else in life just kind of fall into place afterward?
Is it helpful to see yourself as forever recovering, or can you at some point think of yourself as recovered or cured?
Is it true that having just a small amount of alcohol will send you right back to where you left off in your drinking, or is having an occasional drink a possibility for some people?
What if you don't have strong religious or spiritual beliefs, such as faith in a "higher power" — can you still get sober?
Do you eventually lose your longing for alcohol, or do you pine for it forever?
I had some of my own thoughts about these matters, since over the years I have coped with and resolved my own issues with drinking.
But I wanted to find out what others who once struggled with alcohol had to say. What I learned from these masters is striking, and much of what they relate flies in the face of what we've been led to believe about "alcoholism."
Sober for Good examines the common threads among recovery stories of people who have resolved drinking problems in many different ways. A good deal of what the masters share about their triumphs over alcohol is supported by findings of experts whose research doesn't always make its way to the general public. I've interwoven these scientific findings with my discoveries about the masters.
Whether a drinking problem is serious or occasionally troublesome, the wisdom of the Sober for Good masters can help. These people offer possible solutions for those who are just wondering whether they have a drinking problem as well as for anyone who is ready to take action. They offer hope for anyone who is discouraged by the conventional route to recovery, who's looking for something different. If you're dealing with a loved one who has problems with alcohol, the words of the masters can offer insight for you as well.
(Chapter 7 is specifically for family and friends of problem drinkers.)
The masters' stories show that the road to sobriety does not always have a finite course ending in storybook abstinence. They suggest that recovery takes various shapes and forms as well as twists and turns over time and can be marked by interludes of drinking again — all in the context of a serious effort to keep drinking from interfering with a happy, functional life.
Sobriety Is More Than Not Drinking The masters' stories reveal that achieving sobriety involves much more than abandoning problem drinking — it's about taking active steps to achieve a new plane of living, to build a life with no room for alcohol abuse.
Ward R. (twenty-four years)* says his "last drunk" made him realize he had two choices: "I could either work on developing a way of life in which I didn't want to drink, or I could say ‘To hell with it' and continue drinking until I died." Ward made his choice by going to AA but using it in an unconventional way and by developing a life that has no room for drinking. He explains, "I am now retired and my life is full with traveling to other countries, exploring other cultures, being an active member of AARP, working on helping other seniors deal with telemarketing con artists, planning on being a volunteer deputy sheriff, being a member of a gun club, working with other recovering alcoholics, learning how to use the Internet, and remodeling a fixer- upper house I bought. I just don't have time to sit in a tavern or bar."
Marisa S. (seven years, with the help of Women for Sobriety)
says, "Without alcohol, I can be the person I want to be. I have gotten back into my career and have done extremely well, become passionate about my gardening and landscaping, started traveling for pleasure. I can answer the phone or the door without worrying whether I'll give myself away — ‘Am I too drunk?' or ‘Will people notice?'"
Paul V. (nine years, through AA) says, "Since I resolved my drinking problem, there isn't really an area of my life that has been unchanged. I quadrupled my income, I became an avid hunter, I am far less moody, and my relationship with God is in good order. My perceptions of everything are better."
Roxi V. (six years, with the help primarily of Secular Organizations for Sobriety but also AA) says, "I am happy and celebrate every day of my sobriety. I am a well woman." Roxi quit drinking in her mid- forties and since has gone back to school and gotten her M.S. degree.
Best of all, she states, "I've grown as a person. I've become and am becoming the real Roxi, and I like me."
As Regina S. says, the masters have "built a life where drinking doesn't fit in." These are their stories.
Copyright © 2001 by Anne M. Fletcher All rights reserved Houghton Mifflin Company
Posted January 11, 2006
Zazoo, by Richard Mosher, is about a girl named Zazoo, who lives with her grandfather next to a canal in France. She is grateful for her grandfather, Grand-Pierre, who adopted her when she was two years old. He adopted her in Vietnam after her parents died. Grand-Pierre loves her very much and was glad to have brought her to France to live with him after World War II. On page 125, Grand-Pierre says to Zazoo, ¿As soon as I saw you, I knew why I was back in Vietnam. I was there for you to save me.¿ Grand-Pierre felt guilty for all the killing he had done in the war. He likes the company of Zazoo and she started a brighter life for him after the war. Zazoo has a passion for being on the canal. She swims in the summer and rows her boat on the canal until winter comes and it freezes. After the ice is solid, she ice skates with Grand-Pierre. She spends most of her time in or on the water. Everyone in the village knows her for her desire to be on the canal. On page 171, Old Louie, the doctor she goes to when she is sick, says to her, ¿Our river beauty. They say you swim a great deal, and in the winter you skate?¿ On page 10, Zazoo says, ¿¿the fact that I was called not only Zazoo but Zazoo the Gill Girl.¿ Because of her deft swimming, she is called Gill Girl. Zazoo is also very friendly and curious. She meets Marius, who was visiting from Paris and instantly befriends him as she shares poems with him and talks about herself. Zazoo has few friends, and Marius seems like an interesting new person to her, who she can actually talk to. On page 24, Zazoo thinks to herself, ¿But now there was someone else who might understand: Marius the bird-watching bicyclist.¿ Trust and admiration is formed between them while Marius slowly reveals secrets that were kept since World War II. On page 5, Marius says after meeting Zazoo, ¿Can I trust you Zazoo? I mean to keep a secret?¿ She also becomes very close to Felix Klein, who she sees regularly to get pills for Grand-Pierre. As she starts to become aware of secrets that have been kept between Felix and Grand-Pierre, she asks him many questions. On page 15, Felix says, ¿You¿re young, you want to know things, so you ask.¿ Felix, Marius, and Grand-Pierre reveal secrets to her about World War II, that make her very depressed. The plot of the story begins when Marius meets Zazoo next to a canal in a small village in France. He asks her a strange question i.e., if Felix Klein is married. Although confused by this question, Zazoo befriends him after their short conversation. After Marius mysteriously has to leave, Zazoo ponders Marius. On page 15, Zazoo says, ¿I wondered again why Marius had to know whether Monsieur Klein was married.¿ However, they keep in touch with postcards, which Zazoo looks forward to receiving. Zazoo starts to become curious about World War II when Grand-Pierre tells her of the killings he took part in during the war. He says on page 58, ¿You changed me to something better than I was,¿ meaning that he hated himself after doing what he did during the war. Trouble occurs in the plot when Zazoo goes to Felix Klein to learn about what Grand-Pierre couldn¿t tell her about the war. Zazoo has no idea what horrible things she is going to find out. On page 65, Zazoo says to Felix Klein, ¿Something seems to terrible for him to tell me. Too awful. He said it might be too weak of him, but he couldn¿t answer my questions, I¿d have to ask elsewhere.¿ Felix agrees to tell Zazoo the truth. Felix, an eleven-year-old at the time, and his family were the only Jewish people in the village when World War II broke out. His sister Isabelle, and his parents were all hung and killed by the Germans. Felix wasn¿t the only one to miss Isabelle though. Grand-Pierre used to dance the tango with Isabelle when he was in his late twenties. Now Grand Pierre is seventy-eight years old. Grand-Pierre saved Felix and took him to the Cévennes Mountains to hide, so the Germans
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 6, 2009
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I read this book a while back, after finding it while browsing through my town's limited library selection. Extremely well written, and delves into past historical events without feeling like atedious social studies lesson. Instead Mr. Mosher, delves into deep emotional ties from past tragedies that intertwine with the young life of a young Vietnamese girl raised living with her "Grand-Pierre" in France. The story really starts to take off when Zazoo meets the mysterious boy on the bike, named Marius. As Zazoo realizes her feelings for Marius, she also discovers the secrets of past loves, and of her ownfirst love appearing before her very eyes.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 17, 2008
I really like historical fiction. I picked this book up by accident at the library and I really enjoyed it! I flew through the pages! There are many twists and turns. I would recommend it. Anyone who likes to travel to a different land and really get connected to the main character would like this book very much!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 2, 2007
Perhaps the writer spent more time with his nose in history books than thinking of a good plot and ending. The begining is good, but then it falls down hill. it leads nowhere. Sent me to sleep!!! Don't Waist Your Time!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 15, 2006
I thought that this book was one of the best I've ever read, and I've read a lot of books. It was a classic story of an adolescent girl who is trying to define her identity, as she is Vietnamese, but feels 'French inside.' There is also a bit of romance between Zazoo and Marius, and the outcome was, overall, totally satisfying. DEFINITELY BUY!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 6, 2006
Zazoo is the story of a 13 year old girl named Zazoo who lives with her old adoptive grandfather in France. Thoughout the book Zazoo learns about the history of her grandfather and their village. Past romances and World War Two all play a large part in the book as Zazoo learns about life and love. The review below this pretty much tells you the ending and sounds like a book report so don't read it if you actually plan on reading Zazoo.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 8, 2005
Posted November 4, 2004
This book is one of the best books I have read so far and trust me I have read many books. I liked this book because my personal interests include the Holocaust. The author used very graceful poetic words that are supposed to express something tragic, yet somehow comes out peaceful and promising. The characters used are also very easy to connect with. For example, Zazoo has to go through dealing with her problems for Grandpierre and keeping everything in order.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 4, 2004
This was a fantastic book. I loved this book because it combines the past and the present effectively. I can also connect to Zazoo because I know someone with Alzhiemers who is slowly but surely losing her memory, like Zazoo's grandpierre. I also liked how she is so poetic and dreamy but still has a firm grip on reality. It was cool how everyone is intertwined with each other- Marius & Zazoo, Grandpierre & Isabel, Monsieur Klien & Meme Simone. I am fasinated by France so this book helped me develop a deeper understanding of French culture.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 20, 2003
The book is so interesting. It tells of youg Zazoo who lives with her adoptive grandfather, Grand-Pierre. They live in France. It is a little sad. I enjoyed the book because it was written by a great writer.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 13, 2003
zazoo is a beautifully written book! it was very touching and romantic. it even brought tears to my eyes in the end. this book is just terrific and i highly recommend this as a summer novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 20, 2002
If ever a story merited reading aloud it is 'Zazoo,' the poignant story of a young Vietnamese/French girl and her journey to self-understanding. Joanna Wyatt gives a touching performance as the voice of the narrator, 13-year-old Zazoo. Born in Vietnam, Zazoo has lived most of her life in France, actually in Burgundy with her adoptive grandfather, Grand-Pierre. Her life is peaceful and serene; she has not questioned her past or Grand-Pierre's life before she came to live with him. The tenor of her days changes when Marius, a 16-year-old French boy, bicycles into her small village. His queries lead Zazoo to think and to ask about the time when France was under the boot of the Nazis. As multiple secrets are revealed we learn of a unique link between Marius and the village pharmacist. We also learn of Grand-Pierre's past, some of which he would not wish to be revealed. 'Zazoo,' as it explores the years of war, is a rather painful story yet it is one buoyed by love, hope, and forgiveness.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 7, 2008
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Posted April 30, 2010
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