See Reviews for ‘The Bleaks – A Memoir’


The Bleaks is an infuriating, funny, depressing, and moving memoir of one man’s Kafka-esque journey through Canada’s criminal justice system.”

The Globe and Mail 100 Best Books of 2014

“Eye-opening…a story about the ultimate urban nightmare.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“On his harrowing descent into the contemporary Canadian criminal justice system, Paul Illidge unfolds a cautionary tale that would make Franz Kafka flinch. His sharp-eyed, page-turning memoir reveals how our demonizing marijuana laws have reached a scandalous point of overkill; it’s no small miracle that the author survived his serial, Job-like persecutions with a redeeming blend of bulldog tenacity, irreverent humour and plain old resilience. If written as a novel, The Bleaks would stand accused of being incredible, and thus unpublishable. But it’s all true, and far stranger than fiction.”

— James FitzGerald, author of “What Disturbs Our Blood”, winner of the 2010 Rogers Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize

“It is difficult to write a memoir at any time, more so when your life has been transformed into a Catch-22 tragedy. Black humour may be the only defence to mental collapse, but it is hard to sustain those ironic guffaws and see the bright side as the bills roll in and one’s social world implodes. Paul Illidge does a remarkable job maintaining his perspective. The Bleaks is a cri de coeur in the face of the absurd personal destruction wrought by the century-old, ineffective criminal prohibition against cannabis. It would be truly funny, if it weren’t true.”

Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun columnist, author of “Bud Inc.”

“I read The Bleaks in almost one sitting. It is a compelling tale that draws the reader along with at times arm-gripping intensity.”

— Lenore Rowntree, co-editor of “Hidden Lives: Coming Out on Mental Illness”