Emotionally raw and harrowingly real, Some Are Sicker than Others is a moving story of redemption. Crack-addict Dave Bell and alcoholic Monty Miller both struggle through the consequences of a life-changing event: Dave’s mentally disabled son, Larry, accidentally ran him over with a golf cart, injuring his leg and putting an end to his athletics career, while Monty’s fiancée, also a recovering alcoholic, was killed in a car accident, after which Monty relapsed, embarking on a suicide mission. These two troubled men meet in a rehabilitation center in the wintery mountains of Colorado, their paths intertwining more than they could have imagined.
The thoroughly cultivated iced-over setting provides a backdrop for the story; one can easily concoct in one’s mind the snowy, mountainous landscape Seaward paints with his words. The perfect pitch of the language in developing the mid-winter Colorado setting and the deep-cutting emotional environment is perhaps the novel’s strongest point.
Due to the subject matter of the book, it can be difficult to read in many places, though it is important to absorb every word in order to get the full effect of the story. While some events can appear too intense or too harrowing for the reader to take in all at once, the events are never unrealistic. Always plausible, even inevitable, the mistakes these characters make are mistakes that the quintessential addict makes. The violence, disturbing behavior, one-sided motivations, and lack of compassion, especially in Dave, are so well-drawn and realistic that it can be emotionally draining to read, but in a good way, if a novel about drug addiction can do anything in “a good way.”
Each mistake is vital in Dave and Monty’s path toward redemption, even, or perhaps most particularly, in the scene when Dave is finally caught by the police; driving a school bus full of terrified high school volleyball players, as well as the eleven-year-old Larry, Dave accelerates upwards of ninety miles per hour, and when he is pulled over and arrested for the possession of crack, his mentally challenged son is tasered for attempting to defend him. One often finds oneself literally begging Dave to get a hold of his problems, to see beyond the haze of his addiction, as if he were a character in a horror movie about to open a cellar door where a monster resides. This is another of Seward’s strengths—he drags the reader into the character’s head so deeply that no matter how disturbed his mind is, the reader yearns for his redemption. Dave and Monty’s motives are clear, the reasons for them going down the path to addiction defined, and their denial and emotional toil distinct.
Though Some Are Sicker than Others is unrelenting, gut-wrenching, and needs to be taken in a chunk at a time rather than in a few sittings, it is the gritty truth of how addiction can ravage a human life—but it also offers a glimpse of the capacity of human forgiveness.