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on 6 November 2012
In a clever weave of narrative and dialogue, the author takes us through the ups and downs of a pair of alcoholics, one determined to steer the other clear of his vice that would inevitably end in his early death.

"We walked down the street laughing. It was the first time I had seen Barry laugh and he did so like a naughty child. I couldn't help noticing his teeth, and the fact that he seemed to have all the normally visible one. I was pleased for him, but felt like a horse vet."

"So Father Ralf was another unbeliever in Barry's return to a sober, useful life? Only the powers above could save him from earthly; and celestial, no doubt, damnation? I would show them! But no, it was Barry who was going to show them, and I was to merely move a string or two from above the stage; a black clad puppeteer making barely perceptible finger movements that even he would scarcely notice."

At times the story is of a desperate, last-ditch attempt of one human being trying to save another. At other times during their mission the two alcoholics interact with other believable characters, as they pick a course between state and charity organisations on the road to redemption. The rare set of human qualities that Alfred possesses enables him to not only see the chances of saving Barry right from the outset, when others had given up on him, but also to give Barry the care and space for him to help himself ... the finer points of which the state system of dealing with drop outs from society, would completely miss.
The choice of subject matter and the in-depth understanding of the way alcoholics behave, gives the reader a reassuring feeling that the author knows what he is writing about. This short book may not have wide appeal, but for those who choose to read it, it will undoubtedly leave them with a warm feeling ... and maybe it will even spur on a few more Alfreds to do their good work on this earth!

Often humorous ... occasionally grim ... but in the end enlightening. A story of human salvation.
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on 23 September 2012
Picked this book up after doing one of my usual 'Lancashire' searches and didn't know what to expect - the description is rather brief. What I got was a great story, with great satire on the charity sector, which I know well and know how it works! It's much more than that, though. The characterisation is excellent - Jane was the only one who didn't really come alive for me, but Barry, Alf and Stan do convince. Stan is great and adds much to the humour of the book. The book looks at the grim reality of 21st century life, but really gives a message of hope based on self-sufficiency and 'self-motivation', a term that the writer mocks to good effect at one point.

Although it is about a man trying to come up from the lower-echelons, its message is applicable to many: switch off you TV set and use your brain and your body instead. The only criticism I have is that it's a mite shorter than I would have liked, but it does finish at a logical point and there is very little 'padding' to the story. One of my better reads this year and the best fiction set in Lancashire for quite a while, thus the five stars.
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on 22 October 2012
A Book with grit and humour, with an end that makes the world seem a better place.

I loved Stan. Talk abourt a rough diamond. This Book held me and taught me a lot, wish more people were as kind and warm hearted as Alf(red) and Stan.
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on 3 October 2012
An endearing tale about how life can unceremoniously dump you on the seat of your pants - before an outstretched hand offers an escape route from the gutter - or skip.

Punctuated with humour, it's easy to warm, sympathise and, on occasion, empathise with the book's main characters - all striving to make the best of the hand life has dealt them.

A great read which cleverly encapsulates the battles, defeats and victories faced by many throughout their lives.
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on 16 April 2013
An Insightful Story

This inspiring tale of a middle aged man reaching out to help a down and out alcoholic is very touching indeed. It is a well written story that lets us see the different philosophies and motivations leading people to reach out to, or reject, others. It is a 'feel good' book which also provokes some deep thought about our place in this world. Well worth reading and there will hopefully be a sequel too.
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on 11 April 2013
This is a heart-warming novella which is a delightful read. It is about how recovered alcoholic, Alfred, meets Barry, a younger alcoholic, and how Alfred takes him under his wing. Alfred feels that Barry is a cause well worth fighting for and he sets out to try and help Barry come off the drink and find himself a place to live and a job. Other friends tell Alfred that Barry is a lost cause as he has been in rehab on a number of occasions but has always returned to his drinking ways. But Alfred wants to give Barry a chance, a last chance; like a cat with nine lives Barry is on his eight life.
A well written book, the reader is drawn into the characters' quirky lives and I found myself thinking about Alfred and Barry between reads. There are moments in the story which made me laugh out loud and there is a gut-wrenching moment towards the end of the book when we are not sure what will happen next. All the way through I was gunning for Barry and hoping that Alfred would not be disappointed in his quest to rescue him.
This is a book I would heartily recommend.
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on 27 January 2013
The plight of Alfred (never Alf) a reformed alcoholic and his mission to help save the un-savaeble Barry, reveal two compelling characters whose lives become entwined. It's a great story of friendship and hope as you will Barry to succeed in staying sober and getting his life back on track through a series of highs and lows and a lot of laughs. Definitely recommend reading.Barry Braithwaite's Last Life
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on 21 October 2013
This life-affirming, gritty, sometimes heart-wrenching story, follows the shaky journey of Barry Braithwaite as he battles his demons following his spiralling descent into alcoholism and resulting homelessness. He is befriended by the kind-hearted Alf, himself a recovering alcoholic, who attempts to help Barry reclaim his life after alcohol dependency has reduced him to sleeping rough in a skip. The characters are well drawn and the reader is made to feel real empathy for them. Although fictitious, the book also demonstrates how, with the right kind of love and support, people like Barry, who have reached rock bottom, can be given the tools to take control of their lives once again. Mr. Lowe weaves sadness, hope, despair and humour into this story and all these ingredients are expertly mixed to produce a very well-written, enjoyable book, which I can highly recommend.
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on 14 August 2013
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.
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on 13 March 2014
Having a friend who is a recovering alcoholic,this story rings a lot of bells.The sleeping rough part was not as pronounced as in the story but all the other sections were.A very well written account of a man's struggle to get his life on track with a fair bit of humour included.Recommended.
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