Zoo Station tells the story of Christiane, whose young life was consumed with addiction. It is not only an illustration of a little known social phenomenon, but a very accurate, and at times uncomfortable memoir. At twelve, Christane has already lived what, at the time, was an absolutely ordinary life if you happened to be living in the projects in Berlin. Her father was abusive, which resulted in her mother taking the girls and moving in with her new twenty year old boyfriend Klaus. At this point, the story is still moving pretty slowly, but it picks up rapidly when Christiane starts spending time with a new friend Kessi. They join a clique, which is a soft drug, marijuana and alcohol scene. And for Christiane, these things turn out to be only the gateway to her next phase. She starts to sneak off to clubs in the city. By the time she’s 14, she and her boyfriend are selling their bodies to feed their ever-growing heroin addiction.
Christiane’s memoir isn’t an easy read exactly. The language and jargon are pretty standard for a semi biographical work, but the material is sad and surreal, and shocking at times. Christiane tries multiple times to beat the addiction, and fails again and again. You rise and fall with her, and the ups and downs leave you, eventually, exhausted. This particular account is entirely unfiltered, and at times even a little boring, as life can often be. But this book leaves no story untold. Christiane’s failures and struggles are depicted accurately, and the feeling of rising and falling time after time can become monotonous.
Christiane lives a life that, sadly, many can understand. Drug addiction hasn’t gone away or decreased, and for many, Christiane’s life is only too close to their own. But everyone should read this book. The 1970′s heroin epidemic was heretofore unknown to me. And despite the fact that much of the subject material is foreign, I found myself empathizing with Christiane more than I thought I would. I think that, in the end, the reality of our lives is that we are all having this big human experience. It is rare for someone to drop so far out of our sphere of living that they cannot be related to; and that never happens to Christiane. She spends her young adult life circling the drain of addiction, and there is no finite ending to her story.
Prepare yourself for brutal honesty, and what seems at times to be a neverending parade of challenges that are thrown into Christiane’s face. This is a heart wrenching, sick to the stomach read. But it will leave you feeling grateful and hopeful, in unexpected ways.
“It seemed like she could be anything she wanted, but she didn’t want to be anything.”