Sirens : a memoir

Joshua Mohr
Jan 18, 2018

I wonder if this book emits its own hiss. What happens when you hold it to your ear? Can you make out my scorched music?

How do you describe a rocket launcher to your nose? Or a landmine to your brain? In Sirens, Joshua more does just that. Each chapter is broken into snippets of time all wrapped up in a purple haze. Mohr doesn’t spare the reader, nor himself, from the brutal truth of his life as an addict. From the corner of Columbus and Columbus to the shining heights of rehab, he describes in detail the horrors and celebrations that propelled him from junkie to author.

The writing is choppy and at times aggressive in its honesty. Chapters are broken into brief memories that often hop between pre and post-rehab but still combine into a beautifully cohesive whole. The style lends it an air of desperation as he struggles to find meaning in a life full of self-loathing and substance abuse.

Mohr uses the ghost of Dr. Werner Forssmann to highlight his grapple with truth and self-awareness. Dr. Forssmann was a Nazi doctor who pioneered the process that ultimately saves Mohr’s life after his third stroke. In a way, his discussions with the phantom Forssmann coincide with Mohr’s relationship with his father. It's a quest for honesty despite them both being consistent liars. Mohr's father, a preacher, left town when it was discovered he was having an affair (something Mohr learns about at his father's funeral). Like Forssmann, Mohr's father tried to hide his shame by pretending it didn't happen.  In the end, Mohr decides to be truthful whereas his father and Forssmann were not.

Reviewed by Library Staff