Customer Reviews for

The Gin Closet

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
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  • Posted March 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A brutally honest book

    Jamison paints a brutally honest portrait of a woman in crisis. Tilly is a tragic, memorable character, and her struggle to maintain her sobriety and fit in with 'decent' society is so real and sad. Anyone who has dealt with alcoholism in their own family will no doubt recognize this battle.

    Tilly had built a wall around herself, and Jamison has the perfect line to describe Tilly's life.
    "Tilly told me once about the experience of giving birth. She said she screamed louder than she'd known was possible. "it was the first time I really heard my own voice," she said. "I wanted it to keep on hurting forever.""

    The book is also about the damage of keeping secrets. After Tilly reveals one that changed her life forever, the reader has to wonder how different her life would have been if she felt she could have told someone. Would her mother and sister have believed her? Would they have helped her? If she had found her own voice as a child, would she still have been banished from her family?

    The Gin Closet is not an easy book to read; it will hurt your heart. But it will also make you more empathetic to people in your lives, people you feel don't live up to your expectations. Jamison made a wise decision to alternate narrators, Tilly and Stella, allowing the reader insight into two fascinating characters.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Stunning, Haunting, and Authentic -- Amazing Debut Novel

    I read the first few pages and I was suddenly afraid. Afraid to put this down even for a quick break because it deserved my complete focus on it, each tortured character demanding that I listen to their voice, their story. I didn't want to miss a thing, no matter whether disturbing or unsettling, and I certainly didn't want to forget a single moment that the characters experienced. The book is told from two perspectives in the first person: Stella and Tilly. Stella is the daughter of a high-powered immigration lawyer, Dora, and the granddaughter of Lucy, who in her ailing years reveals a secret that no one has talked about. There is another, a daughter of Lucy's that has never been spoken of. Stella, broken though she may be, is determined to find this aunt, someone named Matilda who goes by Tilly. When she finds her, Tilly is surrounded by empty bottles of gin in a run-down trailer in the middle of the desert. But it's something that Stella can grasp onto in the mired sadness of her life -- again, maybe someone she can try to help. She convinces Tilly that they should pack everything up, get her dry and sober on the trip, and move together to San Francisco, where Tilly's son is a rich banker with plenty of space in his home, and plenty of his own quiet grief to share. Stella and Tilly really almost are the same person, their experiences painfully different and similar all at the same time. Is that possible? It almost felt like I was reading a song. I felt guilty as I read this book -- each character's troubled story touched me and I felt ashamed that I was enjoying reading about their terrible miseries, rooting though I may have been for them to overcome their tragedies. This is a story of grief, sadness, isolation. There were scenes that were uncomfortable and troubling but they were real, completely authentic and believable to each character, and I never felt tricked into any part of this story -- I was a willing reader who wanted a happy ending, but instead I got life's truth. Leslie Jamison's debut will render you speechless and amazed, and leave you thinking about it for days.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An exquisite juxtaposition.

    Sometimes you pick up a book and it ends up being one of those truly amazing pieces of writing, the kind you wish you could have created when you were in your early twenties with college-angst. The kind professors yearn for and literary critics swoon over. Leslie Jamison makes me green with writers-envy. Her ability to take a string of simple words and turn them into a profound sentence blew me away on (what felt like) every page.

    On the material surface, The Gin Closet is a novel about two women, one trying to find herself, one trying to survive. When Stella learns she has an estranged aunt she packs up her meaningless New York City existence and moves to the desert to help this broken woman cope with alcoholism and loneliness. Tilly is a mess, she seems to only hurt the people around her and has been that way she since she was young. She hasn't had an easy life so when Stella turns up Tilly surfaces from her gin-induced waking-coma to think of the life she could possibly have, a life that means something, a life near her son in San Francisco. Together, Stella and Tilly embark on a trip, not a journey to somewhere even though they have a destination; more a sort of movement, fumbling many times along the way.

    Told from both women's first-person points of view, Stella is damaged, and Tilly is lost. The dueling narratives juxtapose these women, and give the reader a unique sense of being each of them, as well as watching each of them. This is a novel about family paradigms, but more specifically, female family paradigms: what it means to be a mother, a daughter, or a sister; what we do to our family and what is done to us. Jamison draws a true, poignant portrait of the dichotomy between female relations.

    The Gin Closet is about the things we live with and survive through. How we perceive the one body we are given and what we choose to do with, and to, our life. What definitions do we place upon ourself? Anorexic, Alcoholic, Loner, Dreamer? What do we make of the people around us? Stella expects to be used, expects to be abandoned, but she is hardened and does the same to others. Tilly pushes everyone away until she decides to pull them close, but too close.

    A beautiful, heartbreaking portrait of the female soul, a novel with an exquisite use of language, Leslie Jamison's debut is remarkable in its simplistic truth. She doesn't pander to the audience, she doesn't mince words, she's obvious but understated. Like Marilyn Robinson's Housekeeping, or Alice Munro's The Beggar Maid, The Gin Closet is unsettling but utterly remarkable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2011

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