Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thank you to Tin House for the free advance copy. All opinions are my own.
At eighteen, Jeannie’s dad dies and she promises him on his death bed that she will write him a book. Jeannie idolizes her dad, but he certainly has his issues. Jeannie is the product of a second marriage. Her father was much older when she was born, and she was named after a daughter from his first marriage who died in a car accident at sixteen. That daughter’s name was also Jeanne (without an “i”). I mean that will mess with your head, am I right?
While Jeannie was growing up, her dad was often ill, and eventually had to have an eye removed. She became obsessed with his glass eye.
Jeannie’s mental state quickly devolves after her father’s death. She spends the next decade in and out of hospitals dealing with intense and unrelenting grief, mania, depression, and obsession over her dead sister Jeanne and the circumstances of her death. The guilt and sadness has haunted Jeannie’s father and is now haunting her.
I found this memoir to be a unique and compelling illustration of grief, mental illness, and the complexity of family. It is written in mostly short bursts organized by four subjects: Mom, Dad, Jeanne (dead sister), and Mental Illness (referring to herself). It is rare to see a memoir with such raw vulnerability. Kudos to the publisher for keeping it organized enough to follow without totally stripping the writing of its sometimes scattered but authentic stream of consciousness. What’s all the more remarkable is that Jeannie has somehow managed to complete this book and is working today as a university professor. It would have been interesting to see the journey from where Jeannie is at the end of the book to the life she is leading today.