One of my favorite memoirs is The Tender Bar (2005), by J. R. Moehringer.
Raised by his single mother, long abandoned by his father, J.R. Moehringer is raised by the village of men he finds at his neighborhood bar in Manhasset, New York. Officially named Dickens but known as "The Bar" to everyone who frequented it, nine year old J.R. gets his first glimpse of Dickens when he's asked to bring cigarettes to his Uncle Charlie, the local bookie. This glimpse into Dickens cracks open a world J.R. had long been searching for; a world of "Beer. Aftershave. Leather. Tobacco. Hair tonic" (14). Soon, he's hanging out with Uncle Charlie and the gang, learning the rules of gambling, tending bar for Steve, the owner of Dickens (later Publicans), struggling through Yale, and finally landing a job at The New York Times...until he's fired.
The turning point for J.R. - and the reader - comes when forty-seven year old Steve falls down the stairs of his home after a particularly wicked bender (and possible aneurysm) and dies. J. R. is forced to confront his own growing alcoholism and his years of hiding out in the bar. Steve's death begets a new life for J.R., and he is forced to confront the ashes of the old after his town is hit particularly hard by the events of 9/11.The bar did indeed raise Moehringer, but it also nearly cost him everything he had dreamed of and more. Through his memoir, readers are compelled to look deeply into their own lives to determine what their addictions are and how they might be hiding from the world in their own version of Dickens.
*Read The New York Times review here: