Barry Braithwaite’s Last Life by A R Lowe – Reviewed by Guy Portman
The book is about the developing friendship between the protagonist, Alfred, and an alcoholic by the name of Barry. Barry, an electrician by trade, has been reduced to living in a skip, his days spent borrowing pound coins about town to buy alcohol, and receiving occasional free meals and weekly showers, courtesy of charitable institutions. Although Barry has previously made attempts to turn his life around, including several visits to a rehabilitation centre, these have all ended in failure. Alfred, a former alcoholic himself sees something of a kindred spirit in Barry and is determined to assist him on the path to redemption. Barry’s exasperated friends and associates warn Alfred that Barry is a lost cause, but Alfred is determined to succeed.
The poignant and often humorous narrative follows Barry’s Alfred-assisted efforts to reduce his drinking, find a house and ultimately to return to work. The book offers an in-depth understanding about how alcoholics behave as well as the inner workings of Social Services.
Barry Braithwaite’s Last Life is an insightful, compelling and inspiring account of friendship, addiction and ultimately human salvation, in addition to offering a satirical overview of the charity sector.