Making a Habit of Mr. Wrong

Love Junkie: A Memoir
By Rachel Resnick
Bloomsbury, 245 pages, $24

It’s not just the title that makes Rachel Resnick’s Love Junkie so incredibly hard to put down. There’s an urgency to Ms. Resnick’s writing, a please-you-must-let-me-just-get-this-off-my-chest quality that begins on page one—when the author discovers her ex-boyfriend has broken into her house and destroyed her computer (including a novel in progress) the night before Valentine’s Day—and continues throughout the next 240 pages.

To say that Ms. Resnick, an L.A. journalist and author of Go West Young F*cked-Up Chick, has man troubles is like saying Britney Spears has mood swings. You might think, join the club, honey. After all, who among us hasn’t fallen at least once (or twice!) for the wrong guy, or found a once promising relationship go surprisingly awry? But we’re talking seriously bad here. Besides the vandalism, there’s some terrifying adventures abroad, emotional abuse and debasement that will make your cringe.

In the course of Love Junkie Ms. Resnick looks back through her romantic and sexual history and seems sincere in trying to find out why she’s a participant: “I want to know why I am drawn almost exclusively to men who have been emotionally damaged and whom, in turn, I allow in various ways to emotionally damage me,” she writes. “Why do I choose these men again and again—confusing sex with love, confusing emotional pain with more love—and take rejection as an invitation to come back asking, sometimes begging for more. Does emotional agony somehow heighten the sex? And why does my twisted mind translate that agony as ‘true love’?”

This book could have been seriously annoying—whiny, victimy, self-indulgent. Except that Ms. Resnick is so brutally honest about her own complicit behavior—to the point where you just can’t believe anyone would be willing to admit such embarrassing—and (unfortunately for some of us) occasionally familiar—behavior: the obsessive-bordering-on-pathetic 30-plus-in-a-day email pleas, the willingness to stay and fight for a relationship that’s clearly destructive, the general ache of looking for love and family and stability in all the wrong places.

She cuts back and forth between romantic woes and childhood woes—which include a drunken mother who committed suicide, foster families who gave nothing but more neglect, and a father who consistently disappointed—all in the hope of breaking the destructive cycle. She manages to keep her sense of humor throughout, and, perhaps most importantly, her most devastating criticism is aimed at herself. By the time she’s discovered a 12-step program, and learned that this kind of addiction is no different from any other (and certainly just as painful), it’s impossible not to root for her and her future. There are no easy endings or answers in Love Junkie, but perhaps some relief in self-discovery.

Sara Vilkomerson is a reporter at The Observer. She can be reached at svilkomerson@observer.com.

Making a Habit of Mr. Wrong