Over the next few days I’ll be “live blogging” my experience reading One Good Reason: A Memoir of Addiction and Recovery, Music and Love by Séan McCann and Andrea Aragon. This first entry is after reading the first third of the book.
Premise: McCann is the founding member of Canada’s most successful bar band, Great Big Sea. When he left the band in 2013, he went public with the fact that he’d long used alcohol to mask the pain of surviving sexual abuse. This memoir, co-authored by his wife Andrea Aragon, explores the roots of both their traumas, and its long-term impacts.
Reading Speed: The prose is crisp, clear, very readable, so I’m flying through it.
Format: I’m reading it as a pdf on my laptop.
Accompanying Music: Well this book comes with its own title track: “One Good Reason.” As McCann puts on his YouTube channel, the ballad is “almost word for word the conversation I had with my wife Andrea on November 9th 2011, the day she gave me the ‘One Good Reason’ I needed to face my demons.”
“Daddy Jerry,” as he was affectionately known by his lawless gang of grandchildren, was a gentle man with giant hands and a glass eye, the result of an accident while playing with dynamite blasting caps as a child.
The church was a confusing mixture of power and lust that tickled my burgeoning adolescent sexuality and seduced my teenaged soul.
McCann and Aragon take turns telling their own stories. Both have experienced trauma. McCann is explicit in saying he isn’t trying to excuse his actions in life by talking about the abuse he suffered. He’s just contextualizing.
Doing so reveals something about the nature of trauma. It tends to stay secret. We hide it away. People say things, even decades after the fact, like, “Please don’t tell your father.” He leaves the rest unsaid, but I could almost hear the followup, It would break his heart.
Is this secrecy truer in tight-knit Atlantic Canadian communities? Regardless, it makes children more vulnerable (That’s why #metoo is so powerful, it flips a defiant middle finger to secrecy, whatever the consequences. It puts everything out in the open in its efforts to bring abusers to account. But I’m sidetracked.)
In this Newfoundland context, the absolute authority of the Catholic Church, via the local priest, allowed an abuser ultimate access to a vulnerable boy. McCann’s parents gave the man a key to their house.
Meanwhile, young Aragon’s trauma comes more directly from family dysfunction, and leads to self-harm, “to finally feel some physical pain to match the emotional pain I’d been feeling for so very long.” Her story moves faster, making me wonder if her sections will be longer later in the book.
Aragon’s father fought in Vietnam. She describes his alcoholism. Another instance of way-back trauma seeping down the generations.