Problems by Jade Sharma Tramp Press May 10th 2018
Addiction is so boring. Look at that dumb person doing the same thing over and over all the time and not doing much of anything else. That’s addiction. Repeating the same thing, the same cycle, the exact same thoughts.
Maya is funny, observant, smart and self-destructive. Maya has problems: a sweet, handsome heavy-drinking husband she is no longer sure she loves. A detached older lover who will not take her frantic calls. Her overdue thesis and dead-end retail job. Her dying mother. Herself, most of all, and her escalating drug habit.
Problems is a novel of the body that happens in the head. It is direct, full-frontal, graphic, but tender and melancholic too. Maya’s narration is explicit, upsetting and often shamelessly sexy. Through the unraveling of her marriage, the comedic awfulness of her visit to her in-laws, her obsession with her weight, and the constant intense physical ebb and flow of her drug use, Problems takes the reader on a compelling, uncomfortable and thrilling ride.
I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of Problems by Tramp Press and after hearing lots of good things I was looking forward to reading.
Narrated by Maya, it portrays a woman at odds with herself, a woman who has little confidence and an inner self destruct button. Married to Peter their marriage is ruled by her addiction to heroin and his drinking. You could sense both wanted out but couldn’t quite work out how to do it or who should make the first move, it was if they were safe as long as they stayed as they were.
This status quo did not make me like Maya, in fact her attitude towards Peter and her own introspection I found selfish and frustrating. It made the first part of the novel quite difficult to read as I found her quite annoying and did wonder if I should persist. I am so pleased that I carried on, as Maya’s spiral into addiction became pretty compulsive reading.
Combined with her obsession with her older lover, Ogden, you just knew that Maya was heading for disaster, that not even the intervention of her family would solve. The writing became more graphic, her sexual encounters more frequent as she sold herself for money to pay for her drug habit.
Having never experienced addiction Sharma’s descriptions of spiraling addiction were brilliant. I did wonder if the novel was semi auto-biographical so intense and graphic was the narrative, putting you, the reader, right there in Maya’s mindset, in her utter desperation as she tired to claw her way out.
It became very evident that the secret or success of Maya beating her addiction, was her will to want to do it, to do it for the right reasons, and it made for pretty tense reading as Maya swayed one way and then another in her decision making.
I won’t give away the ending, you will need to read the novel and discover if for yourself!
Problems is a novel that may not be liked by all. The sexual content is pretty graphic, as are the descriptions of drug addiction, but it wouldn’t be the novel it is if Sharma hadn’t gone in this direction. The graphic content is never misplaced, but relevant to Maya and her story, to show the extremes of human behaviour.
It is a novel that is intense, compelling and brilliantly written and Jade Sharma is a very talented author.
Thank you to Tramp Press for a copy of the novel to read and review.
About the author
Jade Sharma grew up as a US Army brat, spending most of her childhood in Germany and her teenage years in Japan. She began writing aged 14, after dropping out of school, as a means of coping with her depression. Her mother’s favorite piece of writing was a story Sharma wrote as a kid in which a married couple try to kill each other on the same day. When she quit high school, Sharma worked at a bookstore and mini-mart on a Navy Base. Later she performed spoken word at the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York and won enough slams that she was invited to join the team to represent NYC in the nationals in Seattle. She studied literature at Hunter College, and it was while she was getting her MFA in New York that she began the novel that would become Problems. She is in treatment for bipolar disorder. Living on New York’s Lower East Side, she is not-so-hard at work on her second novel entitled OKAY.