All Day Is a Long Time by David Sanchez review – a lost youth redeemed | Fiction

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That the narrator and author of this Florida-set debut share a name is no coincidence. This is raw, semi-autobiographical fiction at its most painfully honest, which could only have been written from actual experience of a teenage descent into addiction, criminality and young offender institutions.

The first traps laid for the 14-year-old David, who’s run away from home to hook up with a girl, are appalling; he’s plied with crack by an old man at a bus stop and subsequently abused. What swiftly follows is the chaos of a desperate search for drugs, interspersed with rehab, reflection and reoffending. The total absence of plot makes All Day Is a Long Time feel more like a memoir.

Add the science of substance abuse and its effect on the brain and body, and the book can be teeth-grindingly gruelling. But in David’s quieter moments, when Sanchez’s writing has a fine, almost hallucinatory quality, it’s also a thought-provoking portrait of the vulnerability present in family life and how easily that can turn into damage. It’s telling, too, that even when the narrator is high, he spends days in the public library trying to make sense of himself and the world in the work of Hemingway and Melville, Descartes and Faulkner. The latter is an obvious influence on the bravura stream of consciousness in the final pages.

So though the ending for David is left open, the biography in the endpapers offers succour: “David Sanchez lives in Tampa, Florida. All Day Is a Long Time is his first novel.” Literature has saved him.

All Day Is a Long Time by David Sanchez is published by Sceptre (£16.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply



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