The Glass Eye: A Memoir by Jeannie Vanasco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I wanted to read this because of the connection to grief and fathers. It took a long time to read, but it isn't particularly long - I think the way everything is in fragments, the way the events and thoughts cycle and repeat, and the way Jeannie stops and steps back and considers what she has written on a pretty frequent basis - all these elements make the book feel longer than it probably needs to be.
The element of mental illness is rough to read, because even now I get the impression that the memoirist is not as aware of her own mental illness as everyone around her is, including, now, the reader. She insists to every concerned family member and every therapist/psychiatrist that this is the grief causing this behavior, this isn't mental illness. But anyone who knows about mental illness (and something I learned from reading The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression) knows that a major catastrophic event can trigger the brain into a cycle of mental illness that is then impossible to escape. It is clear that this is the case for Jeannie. She is obsessive and out of control, self-harming and manic. It is frightening to read about, and for me, I almost felt party to it, by continuing to read the book, the book she insisted on writing despite the advice to the contrary.
In that sense there is no overarching feeling of perspective, and I think that's why it feels so repetitive. The author reflects or hones in on specific details, checking her memory with her mother's memory, keeping all her old drafts and journals and recordings to verify, because her mental illness confuses those details. But it feels like she is somehow not seeing it from the perspective the rest of us see it. I can't decide if this is brilliance in writing and structure (and therefore deliberate craft) or if this is illness spilled onto a page. The discomfort it causes for me as a reader makes it hard to rate.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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