A vicious piece of prose – unique and powerful.
At the outset of this brutal and honestly painful story, the name of this book may seem misleading, to say the least. But the further along into the novel you dig, the title begins to make more sense. From the darkest depths of drug addiction, self-loathing, and listless living to the incredible heights of physical perfection, mental clarity, and self-fulfillment, this book is a true knockout, written with the patience and precision one would expect from a veteran novelist.
The intricacies of the professional MMA world may be a mystery to many people, particularly those who aren’t hardcore fans, but the idea of addiction is something to which everyone can relate in some way. The early “Rounds” of the book gives readers a no-holds barred introduction to the intensity, anxiety, and savagery of the MMA world, but also reveals the core personality of the author – his early passion for the sport, his youthful eagerness and nerves, and the first signs of his addictive personality. Following that instantly engaging introduction, the author slowly reveals more detail of who he was prior to getting involved in MMA, including a deeply personal account of his relationship with alcohol, near-death experiences, the blind euphoria of ecstasy, the endless hole of cocaine need, Vi*gra, and everything in between.
Praise this high is rare, but Jay Isip writes like Hunter S. Thompson at times, blending personal recollection with humor, providing readers with ringside seats to his own darkest moments, but never seeming to blindly glorify drugs – or himself. In fact, at the end of many chapters, Isip provides a bit of scientific backing, explaining the chaos that certain drugs and life choices can wreak on your body and mind.
What is particularly appealing is that the narrator doesn’t present himself as some holier-than-thou recovered addict, nor as someone secretly wanting to share the “cooler” details of their earlier life. This book is a naked and self-flagellating confession from a man who has tackled the task of exorcising his demons and recognized how valuable his wisdom could be to others.
Isip’s journey jumps from pill-addicted diary prose to the sweaty madness of the MMA ring and back again, forming a comprehensive image of the author both as someone fighting for respect and fighting for his life. Isip peppers in stories of other people who float in and out of his life, some of whom travel far worse roads than he – even staunch anti-drug readers will be unable to deny that at a certain point, the drugs take control. The narrative flow of the story is intoxicating, and there isn’t a boring moment from start to finish.
Each time a chapter ends, it’s easy to think “This story couldn’t get any more intense”, and yet life keeps beating the author black and blue. As the book tumbles down the slippery slope of addiction, hallucinogenic cocktails, dangerous thrills, and the vicious aftermath of days-long binges, Isip’s search for happiness begins to seem futile.
Fortunately, redemption is both promised and delivered by the author, and after his time locked up, the quest for happiness takes a more hopeful turn. By the close of the book, readers have been given an uplifting, timeless, and honest lesson – no matter how far you fall, the strength to stand back up lies within.
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