ALL SMOKE RISES: MILK-BLOOD REDUX - Elderlemon Design, Julie Hutchings, Mark Matthews

I completed this short book in one sitting and I feel exhausted by the process. This is a hard look at the life of a drug user/users and the effects such behaviour has on society and friends and family. It is a harrowing tale made more poignant by the fact that the author is a trained counsellor and someone who has worked in the field of mental health and addiction for many years and is therefore knowledgeable and skilled to produce a work of such deep thought and feeling.

 

The term milk-blood comes from a process by which one addict extracts the drug rich blood from another and in turn uses this to feed the craving of a fellow junkie by injection. An even more horrific process is the ability to boil a deceased’s ashes and use this again as a form of high. You do not have to look very far to see just where the horror of this story resides and the ultimate effect for the reader is to make for an uncomfortable yet essential read.

 

Crystal is a drug user who has just been released from prison following the negligence and death of her son Oscar who burnt in a house fire whilst she was elsewhere feeding her drug habit. “What was he thinking just before he died?. The image of the crawling body remained. She kept watching. It was no illusion. It did not disappear but moved like a half-smashed insect crawling for safety. This is what Oscar would have looked like had he busted out of the locked door of his bedroom and escaped the flames.”

 

Lilly is the 10 year old child of drug offender Poppa Jervis, regularly injected with milk-blood and heroin, she to is a slave to addiction. “He wouldn’t let her stop living. Even when her eyes closed for so long, her black eyelids looking so at rest, he knew what to do to open them again. The smack. The milk-blood. He filled her up with what he could find, and then went for more.”

 

We follow the story of Crystal and Lilly as we are granted a glimpse into the drug fuelled world of residents of Brentwood, and the substance abuse that is a part of their everyday lives. This is in no way an easy read and yet the author Mark Mathews has managed to create an unforgettable story with deep social significance and one that I urge you to read.