Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: I’m the One Who Got Away

By Jami Deise

The problem with the “writer in jeopardy” type of memoir is that the reader knows the ending before picking up the book. Obviously the writer survived… and did well enough to write his or her story, find a publisher and/or an agent, and get that story out there. The attraction of these books is not the “what” of the ending but the “how” of the middle.

By titling her memoir I’m The One Who Got Away, writer Andrea Jarrell leaves no doubt about how her book ends. At only 176 pages, the book’s prose is stunning, but the structure is weak. Jarrell begins with a bang: Her neighbor has been murdered. Reflecting on the woman’s killer—Jarrell believes she was probably hiding from an abusive partner—leads Jarrell to digress to her mother’s life with her father, and later Jarrell’s own issues with men.

With the explosive beginning, I was expecting Jarrell to circle back to her neighbor and use the woman’s death as the spine of the story. This did not happen. In fact, most chapters do not build on each other, but seem like specific, isolated anecdotes rather than part of a single narrative. I wasn’t surprised to read that some of the chapters had been published as essays, including the New York Times’ Modern Love column. Because of this, Jarrell seems less like the driver of her own life than a passenger, watching the decisions of other people (her parents, her lovers) and recording how their actions affect her.

Still, the prose is exquisite, and that kept me reading even while I was frustrated by everything that Jarrell left out of her story. With its relatively short length, it’s a nice diversion for readers more interested in word choice and description over a beginning, middle, and end.

Thanks to SparkPoint Studio for the book in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

Janine said...

Great and honest review