Book Review-The Book of Mary: Diary of an Addict

by Trillia Newbell

The Book of Mary coverWhen I heard about The Book of Mary: Dairy of an Addict,  by Anthony Zurlo,  I was immediately intrigued. I have spent the last year writing articles for my local paper about news, people and events.  When it comes to writing (and reading) there really isn’t anything I enjoy more than learning about others, their experiences, their lives. The Book of Mary takes it a step further. We see into the private and personal life of a drug addict who pours out her soul on the pages of her journal. Zurlo provides commentary between journal entries including an introduction and conclusion.

The Journal Entries

I cried during the preface. Mary was a real person, a real life, a real woman who struggled deeply with drug addiction, prostitution, and promiscuity. Mary had a daughter who she tried to raise in the chaos of living with an abusive man, living with his family and being high most times. Mary also loved her daughter, Lucy, and her love poured out on the paper.

Zurlo found Mary’s journal at an auction and turned it into a book. At one point I found myself pausing. Would Mary have wanted her private writings shared in the form of a book, to the world? On page 10 after writing an explicit entry, she wrote that if anyone read it that is what they’d get for “snooping”. Yes, she is still quite anonymous (unless the photo on the front is indeed her) but this sentence made me think. But because of the nature in which the author and publishers have chosen to share, changing the names of the “characters” in her journal, I felt comfortable pushing ahead.

Her life is summed up by her on page 13: “Four words that more or less sum up life! Birth, School, Work, Death.” This was the sad truth of Mary’s existence. She may have gone to school, she barely worked and when she did it was prostitution, and she died in 1997 at the age of 43. She seemed very aware that she would die (p.14).  She was HIV positive and spoke very often about the imminent fate that she would have. Mary was sick, physically, mentally and most importantly in her soul.

There were several times when she would cry out to God, she knew there was a God. She simply did not submit her life to him. She quotes Romans and biblical references. Mary was hurting and crying out with no one to help her. The journal entries were loaded with hopelessness, even typing now I begin to cry.

Mary also made drug addiction very unattractive. She wanted to escape it, especially “girl” (cocaine) but she couldn’t. Each effort was met with a rebound. At one point she was able to ward it off for 9 months. I began to think that maybe she would stay off the drug but she came back to it and it seemed even stronger than the last. She even stopped cursing it and sharing how awful it was. She seemed to accept her addiction to a degree.

Her relationships with men were heartbreaking. She longed to be truly loved and cared for and it never happened. She sold herself for as low at $19 at one point. If her story has done anything it has brought me to my knees in prayer. We are in a helpless and hopeless state apart from the grace and mercy of God. This point brings me to Zurlo’s commentary.

Anthony Zurlo’s commentary

I decided to approach the book like an editorial or column rather than a devotional or reference book; and to truly take from it what I surmise Zurlo desires, you might approach it that way too. Zurlo lays out the gospel in three entries and then a conclusion. He writes about our hopelessness  and desire for joy. He shares that we all need hope and joy,  and to believe in a future good. The question he sets out to answer throughout his commentary is, what is that future good?

As  a Christian, I knew where he was going and looked forward to seeing how he would bring it all together. Zurlo honestly and boldly laid out the truth of our fallen world and our fallen state. On page 67, he begins to share about Jesus and all of the gifts he has provided for us. For me this was such a great and clear picture of how everyone, Christian and unbeliever,  benefits from God and yet deny Him. Zurlo evangelistically speaks to the hearts of those hurting by sharing the reality of our state without God and the reality of our posture towards Jesus- God’s gift to us.

Zurlo ends with a call to repentance and shares the gospel clearly and accurately.

The Book of Mary is a perfect book for someone who is struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. I imagine seeing the view from the outside looking in on someone struggling with similar addictions could be powerful for change. I do pray that God would use Mary’s life for His glory and redemption.

What I would have liked to see

This book is clearly evangelistic. It would have been great to see references at the end for places people could go, sites to help those with addiction or counselors.  That is potentially a minor addition that would (for me) make the book that much more useful. With that said, it doesn’t diminish the gift the book is to those who are hurting and without a future good to look to.

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One Comment to “Book Review-The Book of Mary: Diary of an Addict”

  1. Jenn says:

    I am very interested in reading this. Thank you for the review.