When I first found out about "I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag," and saw that it was written by an event planner, I knew I had to read it. Part of my major in college was events and meeting planning and when I learned that Jennifer Gilbert is a famous event planner, it became a definite must-read. Until I started reading it, and read some reviews, I had no idea it was going to be such an intense piece of writing. It definitely is one of the best memoirs I've ever read.
At 22 years old, just a year out of college and ready to face the world, Jennifer Gilbert was brutally attacked by a man who stabbed her repeatedly with a screwdriver. He had followed her from the subway to her friend's apartment and tried to kill her right outside her friend's apartment door. Jennifer did survive, but because she didn’t want this traumatic event to define her, she locked it away deep down inside and threw away the key, determined never to speak of it again.
She launched her career as a New York City event planner, eventually opening her own event planning company called Save The Date. She buried herself in her work and was constantly designing and planning parties, weddings and events, immersing herself in other people’s joyous events. She convinced herself that she would never feel any kind of joy and happiness again. Yet it was these festive events that made her realize the time had come to face her demons, stop hiding and come back to life.
Personally, I cannot imagine going through such a tragic and horrific event like what Jennifer did. Several times during her description of the attack, I had to put the book down because I started to cry. When I think about the sad and scary times and events in my life, nothing compares to what Jennifer went through. Her descriptive writing is so powerful it felt as if I right by her side, trembling and crying out for help.
Right from the beginning Jennifer is more than unequivocally open and honest about how the attack affected her and all those around her, including her family, friends and employees. She shares her journey of recovery, sometimes moving forwards and sometimes moving backwards, rebuilding herself from the inside out. It is crystal clear that Jennifer is a fighter and a survivor.
A predominant message that I received from Jennifer’s story is that when we lessen, dismiss and sweep under the rug, negative emotions and events that one experiences – destruction of oneself will arise. Jennifer ended up hiding, and burying deep down, the physical and emotional evidence of her attack. It took her many years of emotional healing to finally go outside without layers and layers of clothing hiding her scars. A perfect example would be going to the beach and not 100% covering up her bathing suit.
I read this book in less than two days and was 100% inspired by Ms. Gilbert’s drive and dedication to learn to love herself again, and let go of the walls she built around herself. This love blossomed to one for her husband and three beautiful children. Jennifer’s recovery has brought to the forefront of my mind that it is possible (while also quite painful) to walk through the most incredible and horrific fears, live to tell them, and even rise above them to become that much more of a stronger person.
I promise you will find yourself laughing and crying through out the book, be they both tears of joy and sorrow. This is an excellent book club pick, which all human beings can relate to, even if they have never experienced such a tragic event.
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