Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gin and Toxic

'The Gin Closet'
By: Leslie Jamison

Format: Hardback
Published: Free Press; Feb. 2010
Pages: 288

Synopsis: First-time novelist Jamison portrays three generations of “wounded women” in an exquisite blues of a novel. The youngest, pretty Stella, is living the hip, single New York life, but she takes the train to Connecticut at night to care for Lucy, her grandmother, from whom age is stealing strength and clarity. When Stella learns a family secret, that she has a long-estranged aunt, she finds Tilly in a trailer park in Nevada and becomes entangled in her toxic sorrows. Narrating by turns in each lonely woman’s voice, Jamison creates emotionally complex scenes of harsh revelation in language as scorching as the gin Tilly downs in terrifying quantities. Stella is nearly as bedeviled, having struggled with the weird, dicey power of anorexia. The two make their way to Tilly’s banker son’s fortress of an apartment in a sketchy neighborhood in San Francisco, where all three are forced to recognize the limits of love. With trenchant cameos by other women teetering on the brink, Jamison’s novel of solitary confinement within one’s pain is hauntingly beautiful.

My Take: I do believe that there are times in your life when you are better equipped to read certain books than at other times in your life. I think that reading is cyclical. You reach for certain books at certain times because they speak to you. At every stage of your life, characters in books are going to appeal to you more or less because they are like you or not. I think that is probably inevitable. 

On the flip side, I think, depending on what you are going through personally, you can either read certain books and go through the pain and torment the characters are dealing with or you can't because it is just too much on top of all of the other crap (for lack of a more exquisite term) life has already thrown at you and you just have to move onto something lighter because that is what your needs are. For me, after a year in which I have had to go to hell and well I am maybe, maybe just starting a journey back, a gritty, really gritty book just isn't what my sensibilities need. It overwhelmed them. I have a hard time having sympathy for them. I get that their life sucks, but mine does too and well, I'd rather read about cowboys, or a love of clothes, or an obsession with food, or anything else really besides why we hate each other in our own family and then choose willingly to commit incest with our first cousins as adults as this book deals with because I can't deal with this right now. So that's my honest truth.

Other people, however love this book. Read their reviews for a different viewpoint. The book was well written, however not right for me:
The Crowded Leaf
Coffee and a Book Chick

(Thank you to the author for sending me this book)


  1. Just reading your review, tells me this book is not for me. Thanks for the honest review.

  2. I agree that what's happening in my own life can affect how I feel about a book. That said, I'm pretty sure this isn't a book I'd ever want to read. - and I've read some gritty memoirs. I appreciate your review.

  3. Ok, I just caught that this is a novel. Still positive I wouldn't want to read it.

  4. I do not know about this one, and I get what you are saying. I was feeling something recently then I read a book and it just got worse

  5. I totally agree that your own experience flavors what you read, AND definitely that reading is cyclical. I've found that I don't have to like the characters to like the book, because I run into people who are "blamers" (my life sucks and it's all someone else's fault)all of the time in real life, so if I run into them in a book, it's just reflecting real life. I like how you pointed out that the book is well-written, just not for you right now, and pointed people to other reviews for other opinions (I try to do that as well with books that I personally didn't care for). Thanks for the review!

    Julie @ Knitting and Sundries

  6. I so agree with you about reading being cyclical. What appeals to us at one moment in our life doesn't appeal at others. I'm in a happy place right now so can read some of the deeper, darker reads I have been attracted to lately. When I've gone through difficult times in my life I gravitated towards cheerier subjects or complete escapism with TV and movies. This is a book you might pick up later and enjoy.

  7. Sometimes you're just not in the right mood or right place to read a certain book. I loved this book. It's dark and heavy, but I got caught up in the writing, which I though was fantastic. It's not an easy book to read, though. Thanks for your honesty.

  8. Gigi Ann - You're welcome! This review was hard for me to write but I had to write it in the end.

    Mary - For sure. A place in life is always affecting what you read. Glad you discovered it was fiction and my apologies if that wasn't clear!

    Blodeuedd - Yes, for me, right now I've decided I need books that make me smile.

    Jewelknits - Thanks. Yes, I realize that reading is full of opinions so what's mine may not be yours. This one is probably an effect of my place in life right now!

    Kathleen - I agree totally - who knows how I may feel about it in a couple of years.

    Anna - I am so glad you liked this book! Different strokes for different folks :)

  9. This book is certainly one of those that if you're not at the right place, it can be tough. I really loved this book and thought it was very genuinely told, so many thanks for linking up with me! :)

  10. I loved your frank review! Part of being an avid reader is enhancing your own life with literature -- and that's pretty tough when a book doesn't fit your mood or your current situation. I am so glad to hear your year is looking up!

  11. I completely understand what you mean. I appreciate your honest review.

  12. May your next read be a better fit for your place & mood. :)

  13. I agree with you, completely, that sometimes depending on where we are in our lives and what's happening with us, to us etc. it may not be a good time for us to read a specific book. The same with seeing a certain movie. I recently read a review of the book, "Room" on someone's blog. The book had been read by the blogger and members of her book club. One of the members was a pregnant mother who stopped reading the book after a certain point because it was too emotionally difficult among other things, for her.

    This book sounds intense and pretty rough in general, anyway. You called it gritty which is a great description. I know people whose lives are okay right now and still, they wouldn't read this book.

    So No Worries & thank you for a wonderfully honest review.
    ~ Amy

  14. thanks for the review! i think i'll pass on this book too. i have enough going on in my life without having to read about someone else's whining.


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