The best novels about families affected by addiction

Sherry Chiger Author Of Beyond Billicombe
By Sherry Chiger

Who am I?

Having known families affected by substance abuse, I’ve long been fascinated by the resiliency of addicts’ relatives and close friends. Equally compelling to me, as a one-time wannabe psychologist, was how living with substance abusers shaped people’s characters and lives. But while the search for a recovering addict drives Beyond Billicombes plot, the book is also an ode of sorts to North Devon, the area of England where I spent three of the happiest years of my life. Though I now live outside New York City, I haven’t given up hope on being able to move back there someday. 


I wrote...

Beyond Billicombe

By Sherry Chiger,

Book cover of Beyond Billicombe

What is my book about?

Suzanne has come to Billicombe, a faded English resort town, to find her older brother. A recovering addict, Jax had moved to Billicombe after completing rehab more than a year ago, but it’s now been six months since Suzanne heard from him. While she didn’t expect the search to be easy, the fact that Suzanne is a former child actress on a long-running TV series complicates matters, as she needs to avoid being recognized while exploring Billicombe’s underside. Richard, a local Suzanne turns to for help, proves to be another complication, due to an accident that cost him much of his memory. Suzanne’s quest for Jax and Richard’s attempt to put his life back together collide in ways neither could have expected.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Lights All Night Long

By Lydia Fitzpatrick,

Book cover of Lights All Night Long

Why this book?

From the first paragraph, with its almost-throwaway mention of how a hook had given a coat "a permanent hump behind the collar," Lights All Night Long transports you with its authenticity. The bond between Ilya, a Russian teenager who wins a scholarship to study in a Louisiana high school, and his older brother, Vladimir, whose addiction to krokodil has replaced his urge to escape their industrial town, is limned beautifully. A mystery drives the plot, but that’s not why I love this book. What kept me reading was the heartbreaking truth of its world.  

Lights All Night Long

By Lydia Fitzpatrick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lights All Night Long as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A gripping and deftly plotted narrative of family and belonging, Lights All Night Long is a dazzling debut novel from an acclaimed young writer

"Lights All Night Long is utterly brilliant and completely captivating. . . . One of the most propulsive, un-put-downable literary novels I've read in ages."--Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Fifteen-year-old Ilya arrives in Louisiana from his native Russia for what should be the adventure of his life: a year in America as an exchange student. But all is not right in Ilya's world: he's consumed by the fate of his older brother…


Long Bright River

By Liz Moore,

Book cover of Long Bright River

Why this book?

This is a story of two siblings. Mickey is a police officer; her sister, Kacey, is a heroin-addicted prostitute. The setting is Kensington, a notorious drug-ravaged neighborhood in my hometown of Philadelphia. Kacey has gone missing, and Mickey fears she may have been the victim of a killer who’s been targeting prostitutes, so she inserts herself into the investigation. The dual mysteries—where’s Kacey, and who are the killers—give the story its shape. But the relationship between the sisters, the glimpses of their childhoods, and the depiction of growing up among addicts shooting up on the sidewalk and nodding off in doorways are Long Bright Rivers heart and soul. 

Long Bright River

By Liz Moore,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Long Bright River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY NPR, PARADE, REAL SIMPLE, and BUZZFEED

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK

"[Moore’s] careful balance of the hard-bitten with the heartfelt is what elevates Long Bright River from entertaining page-turner to a book that makes you want to call someone you love.” – The New York Times Book Review
 
"This is police procedural and a thriller par excellence, one in which the city of Philadelphia itself is a character (think Boston and Mystic River). But it’s…


One of the Boys

By Daniel Magariel,

Book cover of One of the Boys

Why this book?

Dealing with an addicted child or sibling is traumatic enough; when the addict is your parent, the person who is supposed to protect and support you, the fear and betrayal are ramped up to an unbearable level. One of the Boys captures this in all its harrowing detail. Two barely teenaged boys move with their father from Kansas to New Mexico, where the father’s descent into meth addiction obliterates any sense of responsibility, affection, and decency he might once have possessed. Narrated by the younger son, One of the Boys is more than a realistic depiction of addiction; it also shows how far children will go to gain or retain a parent’s love, which is what makes the story so devastating.

One of the Boys

By Daniel Magariel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One of the Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A father and his boys have won 'the war': the father's term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave Kansas and drive through the night to their new apartment in Albuquerque. Settled in new schools, the brothers join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. Soon his missteps - the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late-night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters - become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching him transform into someone they no longer recognize.

Set in the stark landscape of New Mexico…


Shuggie Bain

By Douglas Stuart,

Book cover of Shuggie Bain

Why this book?

Shuggie Bain invades the senses: You smell the sour breath of Shuggie’s mum as she snores, open-mouthed, in a drunken stupor; you feel the stiffness of the rug where endless spilled drinks were left to dry. Just as important, you feel the push-and-pull of love and despair, hope and anger, as Shuggie grows up, the youngest child of an alcoholic who is ultimately abandoned by the rest of their family. The final chapters, as Shuggie moves into adolescence and struggles to break from the burden of becoming caretaker to the woman who should have been taking care of him, are exceptional.

Shuggie Bain

By Douglas Stuart,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Shuggie Bain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD



A stunning debut novel by a masterful writer telling the heartwrenching story of a young boy and his alcoholic mother, whose love is only matched by her pride.



Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings.



Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she…


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

By Anne Brontë,

Book cover of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Why this book?

So far as I know, this novel, published in 1848, is one of the first fictional depictions of life with an abusive alcoholic. (True, Wuthering Heights by Anne’s sister Emily features the drunken Hindley, but in that book’s world of chaos, his behavior isn’t any more damaging than that of the other characters.) In Tenant we discover that a seemingly respectable marriage is one of disgust, pain, and humiliation for Helen, the titular tenant, and as she sees her aristocratic husband’s influence over their son grow stronger, she takes unconventional action. The book was shockingly frank for its time; now it’s considered a landmark feminist novel as well as a realistic depiction of a family devastated by substance abuse.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

By Anne Brontë,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

A beautiful edition of Anne Bronte's most enduring novel, to accompany her sisters' greatest books in Penguin Clothbound Classics.

Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young woman who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behaviour becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Philadelphia, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Philadelphia, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia Explore 55 books about Philadelphia
New Mexico Explore 43 books about New Mexico
Pennsylvania Explore 55 books about Pennsylvania

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Unbroken, Running with Scissors, and Beartown if you like this list.