Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, “enjoyed every page” of this memoir set in the punk scene in Detroit in the '90s.
Eighteen-year-old Sean Madigan Hoen was struggling to keep his involvement in the city’s hardcore punk scene a secret from his family. Then he learned that his father, too, had a second li...
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, “enjoyed every page” of this memoir set in the punk scene in Detroit in the ’90s.
Eighteen-year-old Sean Madigan Hoen was struggling to keep his involvement in the city’s hardcore punk scene a secret from his family. Then he learned that his father, too, had a second life—as a crack addict.
Songs Only You Know begins in the ’90s and spans a decade during which the family fights to hold itself together. Sean’s father cycles from rehab to binge, his heartsick sister spirals into depression, and his mother works to spare what can be spared. Meanwhile, Sean seeks salvation in a community of eccentrics and outsiders, making music Spin magazine once referred to as “an art-core mindfuck.” But the closer Sean comes to realizing his musical dream, the further he drifts from his family and himself.
By turns heartbreaking and mordantly funny, Songs Only You Know is a fierce, compassionate rendering of the chaos and misadventure of a young man’s life.
“A book of almost spooky clarity and relentless compassion. Because it's also universal, and ridiculously readable, and Hoen has, in this memoir, brought his life pinned and wriggling to page, and you can't help but be moved by it, and even yourself changed.”
—Darin Strauss, winner of the National Book Critics Circle award and author of Half a Life
“Sean Hoen has written a wise and moving memoir about anger, rock music and the endurance of familial love. For Hoen the ultimate redemption is rendering honestly the hard facts of his own transgression, while never losing track of the beauty and kindness that are also, thank goodness, ineradicable aspects of human existence.”
—Stephen O’Connor, author of Here Comes Another Lesson
“Songs Only You Know is cigarettes and buck knives, crabgrass and asphalt, rolling brownouts and horseshit vinyl. Sean Madigan Hoen offers the best things a writer can offer a reader: the big heart, the big hurts, the big bad news about the impermanence of life's gig.”
—Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk
“Sean Madigan Hoen puts raw need indelibly on the page—the need for family, for belonging, for alcohol and drugs, and for a music that will burn all those things away (and if the music fails, try more alcohol and drugs). Hoen’s younger self thinks, ‘To achieve self-invention, you first evacuate the truest parts of yourself,’ not quite knowing yet that the sort of evacuation he craves is only ever temporary: the check always comes due. This moving, often brutal memoir records Hoen’s long journey back toward the truth.”
—Bill Clegg, author of Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man
“I don’t know anyone who has described that terrible yearning for ecstasy and immolation through music as lucidly as Sean Madigan Hoen in Songs Only You Know. Only a thorough initiate of the scene who also had some genius with language could summon the demotic yet electric voice for the job. If there is ruefulness, now, for the way he treated his body, his girlfriends, and his family, he wisely reprises in his book, in neon detail, the fever that once placed him in the same drunken boat with Iggy Pop, Rimbaud and Artaud.”
—Jaimy Gordon, National Book Award-winning author of Lord of Misrule
“Songs Only You Know is a truly moving book, full of pain, longing, strangeness and even grim comedy, and one of its greatest triumphs is the way Hoen describes a certain creative intensity—youthful, monstrous, fragile—that is both life-giving and dangerous, especially in troubled times. Maybe everybody has a song, but Hoen sings his with fresh phrasing and genuine feeling.”
—Sam Lipsyte, author of The Fun Parts
“Perceptive, sprawling memoir of a young man’s escape from cascading family tragedies into the noise-punk underground ... A dark, knowing look at addiction, rock ’n’ roll, and the ties that bind.”
—Kirkus Reviews on Songs Only You Know: A Memoir
“Astute and intensely self-aware, Hoen writes furious prose with a storyteller’s eye for detail ... there’s no question that Hoen is a gifted, impassioned writer with a deep understanding of longing and pain.”
—Booklist on Songs Only You Know
“Like the best rock and roll memoirs, Songs Only You Know is as propulsive as the music it describes. But what truly sets this book apart is Hoen’s unflinching ability to portray dire situations while still being generous in his recollections. These searing shards of life are stamped into the page with genuine empathy.”
—Jeff Jackson, author of Mira Corpora
“It's an odd feeling to have, to not want a book to end when it covers so many miserable and sometimes manic moments in a life, but that's how I felt reading this fantastic, honest, unsentimental and finally generous-hearted book.”
—Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances
“[Hoen’s writing] retains the sharp tang of honesty.... If you ever wondered what the punk life was like, this'll tell ya, and it ain't pretty; if you ever lived it, this'll remind ya; and even if you don't give a shit either way, Songs Only You Know will interest you.”
—Mark S. Tucker for FAME
“[Hoen] looks back on a life battling adversity with brutal honesty and humility, and is able to see the comedy in the worst things that life has to offer. In addition, despite the darkness, his description of the local hardcore scene makes you wish you were there (if you weren’t).”
—Detroit Metro News on Songs Only You Know
“Hoen is a particularly gifted writer who writes evocatively about Detroit's hardcore punk scene and decaying Midwest cities of the 1990s.”
—Michigan Live on Songs Only You Know
“Songs Only You Know screams at you, its limbs flail, and parts of it provoke a visceral reaction that might have you setting down the book for a few moments to catch your breath...one hell of a book.”
Flavorwire on Songs Only You Know
“Brutally honest, and yet tender and introspective ... Hoen deserves comparisons with Nick Flynn or Tobias Wolff for his depiction of a young man growing up in a world of family trouble and showing how we negotiate the ties and hard love that bind us. It also captures (as its dismal yet somehow hopeful backdrop) decaying rustbelt Detroit as well as anything Charlie LeDuff or Jim Daniels have done, which is saying something.”
—The Rumpus on Songs Only You Know
“Unsettling and riveting ... Prompts us to reflect on our own demons, and how we've tried to—and perhaps succeeded in—exorcising them. The grit and guts of Songs Only You Know goad us into this introspection and stir anticipation for his next book.”
—Time Out on Songs Only You Know
“An astonishing well-written debut ... a deeply emotional trip through Hoen’s formative years and an inspiration to the many of us who have shared similar challenges.”
—Book Patrol on Songs Only You Know
“Eschewing rock ’n’ roll memoir stereotypes, Songs doesn’t glorify sex and drugs, instead exploring the harder parts of romance and addiction ... the reader is exposed to every inch of Hoen’s struggle with keeping his family together through near-insurmountable circumstances while trying to keep his personal life in some semblance of order and keep his musical flame from being extinguished. It’s a compelling, engrossing read.”
—Alternative Press on Songs Only You Know
“[A] unique literary voice ... almost eye-wateringly as he switches from mordantly funny to intensely honest, with a skeletal insight into a fanily in crisis and an emerging subculture.”
—Vive le Rock
“[SONGS ONLY YOU KNOW is a] gritty, gripping punk-rock memoir... nuanced and poetic. It's funny at times, always brutally honest; a half-healed bruise, tender and multi-colored. Few books convey the fever-pitch intensity of youth with such vividness and so little glamorization, or as deeply explore the heartbreaking complexity of family — both those we're born into and the ones we choose.”