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Luke Sullivan's Rochester memoir tells it like it really was

By Amy Goetzman
MinnPost

Sullivan_Thirty cover“Rochester, Minnesota, is a privileged white enclave of conservative Republicans nestled in the southeastern corner of a Democratic state,” begins Luke Longstreet Sullivan in his memoir, "Thirty Rooms to Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic." The description, it’s clear, is not a compliment. Sullivan grew up there with his five brothers during the 1950s and ’60s, and if during those years American pop culture put a happy, wholesome face forward, Rochester tried even harder to present a perfect image. But, as Sullivan writes, what went on behind closed doors was far more complicated.

Sullivan’s father, Charles Sullivan, was a handsome, accomplished young orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic. He had a beautiful wife and lived in a fantastic 30-room English Tudor country mansion. To outsiders, the family represented success, Rochester-style. But the good doctor was a raging alcoholic, and viciously tormented his family (and endangered the public) as he spiraled from alcoholism to madness, eventually dying alone in a hotel room at age 45.

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