In a city like Las Vegas where excess is always in fashion, visitors often turn a blind eye to addicts and their vices. The Last Cookie Club, on the other hand, takes its readers on a journey that humanises the lives of Nevadans who suffer from addiction. Gary Mahoney, who once operated a Sin City casino, doesn't just offer up emotional stories about people and their struggles, but he aims to educate readers on how to combat their own addictions. As the title suggests, there is a strong emphasis on eating disorders, but this book will surely appeal to anyone interested in addiction or the human condition itself.
The once booming casino industry in Las Vegas, Nevada, has often been considered as the epitome of big business, with casinos and their owners appearing to the public as the ultimate symbol of faceless financial power, where the dollar is king above any personal need. It’s surprising then that Gary Mahoney has cast aside this image in order to help others through his book, The Last Cookie Club.
The former Las Vegas Casino owner channels his experiences of running a casino and dealing with various forms of addiction (in particular, food) into the protagonist of The Last Cookie Club, Larry Brennan. Charting the plight of the small group which meets in Larry Brennan’s casino, The Last Cookie Club primarily discusses how to control addictions – and the importance of facing emotional issues directly – as opposed to retreating to the comfort of food, or in the case of one of the book’s characters, endlessly playing video poker.
What’s perhaps most interesting about Mahoney’s publication is the sheer lack of cliché. After all, self-help books were a phenomenal publishing success in the 1990s and since the advent of Chicken Soup for the Soul, more recent titles have often recycled meandering and somewhat unhelpful discussions of how you can improve your wellbeing and situation in life. Mahoney steers clear of such falsity. Instead, he provides the reader with a glimpse of how he coped with running a casino in Las Vegas and dealing with a deadly food addiction. Admittedly, there are moments when the fluency and coherency of Larry’s leadership statements appear somewhat forced, but on the whole, The Last Cookie Club provides both stark and candid insight into the minds and bodies of people suffering from addictions.
The setting of The Last Cookie Club also provides ample food for thought, as it were. In a city that’s built on the premise that too much is never enough, Mahoney’s book shows how Las Vegas’ excess can influence the minds of its residents. Larry Brennan battles with the idea of taking on another casino throughout the book, knowing full well he could survive financially with just his current gambling venue, the Lucky Charm. To a lesser extent, Sharon, another member of the Cookie Club also falls victim to following Las Vegas’ fads and trends, only to find herself losing track of time whilst playing casino games in Larry’s gambling establishment.
While The Last Cookie Club is, in its own right a powerful and important tool for anyone dealing with addictions – perhaps its greatest gift is the ability to humanise a city that’s often thought of in terms of room rates and stock prices. Mahoney presents the reader with real people, battling real addictions in a city and state which is often considered as built on and for excess; a feat which few authors have been able to achieve.