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  • Writer's pictureClay Anderson

Review of Leaving Las Vegas by John O’Brien

Leaving Las Vegas, written by the late John O’Brien, is a novel that delves into the life of alcoholism and addiction in an extremely raw and honest manner. The book has been widely praised for its haunting portrayal of the pain and struggle that comes with such destructive behavior, as well as for the masterful writing that has made it one of the most important literary works of its era.


At the heart of Leaving Las Vegas is the character of Ben Sanderson, a screenwriter who has lost everything due to his alcoholism. In an effort to end his life on his own terms, he heads to Las Vegas with the specific intention of drinking himself to death. Along the way, he meets Sera, a prostitute, who is drawn to him despite the fact that he is openly and dangerously drinking himself into oblivion.


What makes this book so powerful is the way that O’Brien manages to convey the utter hopelessness of Ben’s situation, while at the same time capturing the beauty and poignancy of even the most fleeting moments of human connection. His writing style is spare and direct, and he uses each word with incredible precision, painting a vivid picture of a city that is both glittering and damaged, where even the brightest lights can’t fully illuminate the darkness that surrounds it.


Leaving Las Vegas has been compared to authors like Bukowski and Hemingway for its brutal honesty and directness, and rightly so. Like those authors, O’Brien is able to capture the gritty reality of life with a precision and empathy that is truly amazing. He is a master of character development, and even the minor characters in the book are rendered with a depth and complexity that makes each one feel incredibly real.


One of the most striking things about Leaving Las Vegas is the way that it manages to transcend its own bleakness, even as it draws the reader further into the dark world of addiction. In many ways, it reads like a meditation on the human condition itself, and the struggle we all face to find meaning and purpose in a world that often seems both incomprehensible and cruel.


At the same time, however, there is a sense of hope and redemption that runs throughout the book. It might be easy to dismiss Ben’s decision to drink himself to death as foolish or nihilistic, but for all of its horror, there is also a sense that this is a man who has finally found a way to take control of his own destiny after years of being consumed by his addiction.


Likewise, Sera’s own journey is one that is remarkable for the depth and complexity that O’Brien brings to her character. She is not simply a victim of circumstance, but rather a woman who is fighting her own demons even as she tries to help Ben. Her journey, like Ben’s, is one that is full of darkness and loss, but there are also moments of beautiful tenderness that make the book all the more memorable.


Ultimately, what makes Leaving Las Vegas so compelling is the way that it manages to be both universal and deeply personal at the same time. Even as the book delves into the specific world of alcoholism and addiction, it manages to tap into something much deeper and more profound, a sense of longing and disconnection that is present in all of us. In this way, it is a book that resonates long after the last page has been turned, and that speaks to the human spirit in a way that few books are able to do.


In conclusion, John O’Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas is a deeply moving and unforgettable novel that manages to capture the pain and beauty of human existence in a way that is both haunting and inspiring. It is a book that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it, and that will continue to resonate with you even as the years go by. If you are looking for a book that will challenge you, move you, and ultimately inspire you, then this is the one to read. It is an absolute masterpiece of modern literature, and one that deserves to be read by anyone who is looking for a glimpse into the human soul.

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