TITLE: Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing
AUTHOR: Matthew Perry
GENRE: Biographies & Memoirs
PUBLISHER: Flatiron Books
PUBLICATION DATE: November 1, 2022
TWs: Alcohol and drug abuse, depression and anxiety
Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing is an unforgettable memoir that is both intimate and eye-opening―as well as a hand extended to anyone struggling with sobriety. Unflinchingly honest, moving, and uproariously funny, this is the book fans have been waiting for.
I grew up watching reruns of Friends. Chandler Bing’s sarcasm was a staple at dinnertime. So when I saw that Matthew Perry published his memoir, I just had to read it. The memoir will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on its readers. But whether that impression leaves a sour taste in your mouth or has you grabbing for the remote to catch a rerun of Friends will depend on your tolerance for the ugly truth.
“Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead.”
So begins the riveting story of acclaimed actor Matthew Perry, taking us along on his journey from childhood ambition to fame to addiction and recovery in the aftermath of a life-threatening health scare. Before the frequent hospital visits and stints in rehab, there was five-year-old Matthew, who traveled from Montreal to Los Angeles, shuffling between his separated parents; fourteen-year-old Matthew, who was a nationally ranked tennis star in Canada; twenty-four-year-old Matthew, who nabbed a coveted role as a lead cast member on the talked-about pilot then called Friends Like Us. . . and so much more.
In an extraordinary story that only he could tell―and in the heartfelt, hilarious, and warmly familiar way only he could tell it―Matthew Perry lays bare the fractured family that raised him (and also left him to his own devices), the desire for recognition that drove him to fame, and the void inside him that could not be filled even by his greatest dreams coming true. But he also details the peace he’s found in sobriety and how he feels about the ubiquity of Friends, sharing stories about his castmates and other stars he met along the way. Frank, self-aware, and with his trademark humor, Perry vividly depicts his lifelong battle with addiction and what fueled it despite seemingly having it all.
Why this memoir is a must-read
In its simplest form, this book is Perry’s way of telling the world, “These are my demons. And while I hope you won’t judge me for them, I can’t say I care if you do”. And that takes a tremendous amount of bravery to do so.
For those who watch Friends, you would never be able to tell that an actor who wears the skin of Chandler Bing so well could have so much turmoil happening underneath the surface.
But Perry does a painfully captivating job of taking you behind the scenes into an addict’s mind and leaves no stone unturned. His words are raw and said with such unflinching bravery that you can’t help but respect his blunt honesty.
His classic sarcasm and witty humor are riddled throughout the book and will leave you feeling like you’re having a casual conversation with him in a booth at your local café.
Why you may want to consider skipping it
The majority of the downfall of this book is in its editing. There were a lot of repetitive sentences, and I don’t think every one of his relapse episodes needed to be described in detail, especially since the triggers and outcomes were quite similar. But if this was his way of showing how unrelenting addiction is, I understand his decision.
This book is not labeled as an autobiography and, therefore, is not required to be in chronological order. But it would have benefitted from better organization of the chapters, as some of the timelines were all over the place and hard to follow.
Perry is disrespectful to healthcare professionals throughout. Between using them to fill his “potentially lethal” prescriptions and criticizing them for extending his hospital stays, this did not sit well with me because I am a doctor myself.
Lastly, I love his style of sarcastic comedy, but some of it came off as thinly veiled bitterness. For example, when his fellow actors received awards that he felt he deserved. But in his defense, he knows he’s selfish and narcissistic and admits he’s working on improving it.
Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing is Perry at his most human. This book bravely does what we are all afraid to do with the people in our lives – show them our flaws and not worry about being judged. Despite its downfalls, this is a book that I would recommend to everyone I know simply because of how impactful he is with the way he speaks his truth.
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