Book Review: “High on Arrival”

In her memoir, High on Arrival, MacKenzie Phillips refers to the symbol of the three wise monkeys: See No Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil. She considers herself the fourth monkey: Feel no Evil. It’s an apt metaphor for someone who is hellbent on numbing themselves into oblivion.

Many of the most shocking moments, and there are quite a few, come pre-anaesthesized for you. The narrator doesn’t feel anything about them so they are far more palatable for the reader as well. Starting with a largely unsupervised youth in her father, Papa John Phillips’, den of drugs and celebrity, through American Graffiti and One Day at a Time, through relationships and parenthood, Mackenzie Phillips’ life revolves around her mercurial father. She seeks only his love and approval, which turns out to often be her undoing. She is unwavering in her love and devotion to him until the end.

Somewhere around 2/3 of the way into the book, the narrator starts to wake up. The Mackenzie Phillips of today starts to reflect on her self-destructive path, and it becomes a somewhat difficult read. I have heard a lot of bottoming-out stories, but these are some of the lowest bottoms to date. Still, the author does an excellent job of illustrating the difference between the addict and the addiction, and you never lose sympathy for her. Life has not been kind to her, and you can’t help but admire her gumption. In 306 pages, Mackenzie Phillips goes to hell and back, and takes you along for the ride.

Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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