You can’t run from your problems forever.
Breakups, dead-end jobs, bumps in the road to adulthood—author Jess Keefe and her little brother Matt navigate them together as roommates, sharing late-night conversations and laughs. But when Matt’s heroin addiction comes roaring back after lying dormant for years, an overdose on a warm October night changes everything.
In the year that follows her brother’s death, Keefe tries to start over, but her grief and trauma keep her obsessed with the past. She wonders how things could have turned out differently, diving into research about addiction and drugs and excavating their shared childhood and young adulthood for clues about what happened. To soothe her aching body and scattered brain, she takes on a new physical challenge: training for her first half marathon. She pushes her body to its limits to quiet the chaos in her mind, but as the race date nears, her recklessness catches up with her.
With propulsive narrative scenes, a unique voice, empathy, and humor, Keefe combines her grieving experience with explorations of the social, political, and scientific drivers that influenced what happened to her brother. Thirty-Thousand Steps, a powerful, transformative memoir, explores the psychosocial risk factors that lead to addiction, the cudgel of Catholicism, the joy and shame in the early-aughts queer experience, and the extent to which one can push mind and body to regenerate after a major loss.
Jess Keefe is a writer, editor, and advocate. Her writing has been published by Teen Vogue, HuffPost, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Runner's World, and more. She has worked with national and local addiction nonprofits to increase naloxone availability and improve treatment standards. She currently lives in Richmond, Virginia.
“A beautiful tribute to a lost brother and to running toward, not away from, our lives.”
— Maia Szalavitz, New York Times-bestselling author of Undoing Drugs and Unbroken Brain
“Jess Keefe’s debut memoir is a beautifully written, heartbreaking, and hopeful journey that peels back the misunderstood layers of addiction’s impact on those most affected—loved ones. Thirty-Thousand Steps is a powerful reminder that there is life and purpose after loss.” – Ryan Hampton, addiction recovery advocate and bestselling author of American Fix and Unsettled
“A lot has been written about the opioid epidemic but nothing as tender as Jess Keefe’s debut. Blending family portrait, journalism, and diary-like vignettes documenting her runner’s highs (and lows), Keefe reminds us that beneath all the statistics and headlines surrounding addiction are real humans caught in the tentacles of a relentless, complicated beast. Writing about grief is tricky business and writing about drug addiction is perhaps trickier, but Thirty-Thousand Steps does the job beautifully. As someone who lost my dad to alcohol addiction 14 years ago, this book broke my heart into a thousand pieces and then slowly, delicately put it back together again.” —Tessa Miller, author of What Doesn’t Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness—Lessons from a Body in Revolt
APPROVED SHORTENED MILLER BLURB
“A lot has been written about the opioid epidemic but nothing as tender as Jess Keefe’s debut…. this book broke my heart into a thousand pieces and then slowly, delicately put it back together again.” —Tessa Miller, author of What Doesn’t Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness—Lessons from a Body in Revolt
"Keefe offers a clear-eyed view of addiction, its roots and its treatments, all while condemning the criminalization and moralizing that keeps people shamed and sick. With great care, she shows us that it's possible to survive the unimaginable, revealing the pain in her grieving body and reckoning with the enormity of loss by investigating how it happened. This book is a profound act of love, a hand to hold in the dark, and a road map out of hell." —Leigh Cowart, author of Hurts So Good
NetGalley Review: 4 stars
Last updated on 07 Sep 2022
"I loved this book.
Totally inspirational and I loved the "arc" into running.
Yes, the author's story is painful to read, but it gives you us a deeper look into what she is going through. Of particular interest to me is how she managed to incorporate running as a means to help with her addiction.
Very touching and very honest. The writing is well paced and I really just enjoyed all the pieces of this book that are joined together."—Tina Avon, Librarian at Notre Dame de Lourdes
NetGalley Review: 5 stars
Last updated on 21 Sep 2022
"Five stars. This was a fantastic memoir, simultaneously informative and inspiring. It's helped me reinterpret my ideas about addiction and its victims. The author does an incredible job of encapsulating the grief, the loneliness, the outrageous lack of information on what is truly needed to help people who turn to drugs. The story reminds us to be compassionate, to notice and question our prejudices, no matter how widespread they are. I may have picked this up for the focus on running, but I'm glad I got so much more."—Kayl Kuo, consumer reviewer
Last updated on 02 Oct 2022
"I applaud Jess Keefe’s honesty in sharing her personal journey in Thirty-Thousand Steps. I have a new respect and understanding of the many faces and reasons involved in those who suffer with addiction. Keefe is an inspiration!
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this book."—Wendy Hunt, consumer reviewer