Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs

4.9 15
by Jen Knox, Jennifer L. Knox
Musical Chairs explores one family's history of mental health diagnoses and searches to define the cusp between a '90s working-class childhood and the trouble of adapting to a comfortable life in the suburbs. In order to understand her restlessness, Jennifer reflects on years of strip-dancing, alcoholism, and estrangement. Inspired by the least likely source, the


Musical Chairs explores one family's history of mental health diagnoses and searches to define the cusp between a '90s working-class childhood and the trouble of adapting to a comfortable life in the suburbs. In order to understand her restlessness, Jennifer reflects on years of strip-dancing, alcoholism, and estrangement. Inspired by the least likely source, the family she left behind, Jennifer struggles towards reconciliation. This story is about identity, class, family ties, and the elusive nature of mental illness.

Product Details

All Things That Matter Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.43(d)

Meet the Author

Jen Knox is a Fiction Editor at Our Stories Literary Journal, and works as a freelance writer, editor, and writing tutor. She grew up in Ohio, and lives in Texas, where she is currently working on a novel entitled "Absurd Hunger."

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Musical Chairs 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
MonicaMBrinkman More than 1 year ago
The title is perfect, the story honest as the author, Jen Knox, allows the reader into her private world as a young woman coming to terms with her own place in the world. Written exquisitely there are no holds barred when Ms. Knox tells her story and allows the reader privy to a path of destruction that she must choose to follow or alter. The avenues this young woman chose in her life are the same paths so many of our young adults must face today. Her words will reach out and show them the harshness of life along with the compassion and love we ultimatley rely on to survive. Not only does this reviewer feel the book is a 'must read' for any parent, teacher or authority figure but also the fact thie book belongs in every single high school in the world. The messasge is clear - temptation, vulnerability, fear, anger, peer pressure, acceptance, individuality is what our children wrestle with each day. Their choices will bring consequences that could alter their entire life. For Ms. Knox to overcome so many obstacles and be willing to share her so personal story, is a reflection of the true, self-less, caring individual that has emerged. I highly recommend this book and feel it is a must to include in any book discussion group, especially if you are a teenager or raising one. Monica M. Brinkman, Author, The Turn of the Karmic Wheel
JulesMagicRealism More than 1 year ago
Jen Knox' memoir, Musical Chairs is an uplifting, hard knocks story of independence and of facing one's fears. The book opens with Jen as a teenager who is in living in a house that's falling apart at the seams as her parents' marriage begins to crumble. She is a witness a home that is slowly divided up in quarters as both of her parents each carve a space for their own. Jen is weighted down by their silences and what is not said between them. This is juxtaposed with another side of Jen who is creating her own space and struggling to find herself as an adolescent girl and as a woman. She learns the value of running as an athlete from her Dad and also as an escape mechanism from her Great Grandmother, one she's heard about in family legends. And so she becomes a runaway teenager living life on her terms. She camps out at her boyfriend's house and at friends 'houses but doesn't cave into others whims or even to the notion of what home means, finding a safety net of one's own. That is a notion that's at first too alien and foreign and ultimately too threatening. When she does finally contact her parents it's to let them know she's safe, even though they offer for her to live with them at their respective homes. Jen says no and later when she questions her own sanity and wonders if she might have inherited her Grandma's mental illness she voluntarily checks herself into a center for troubled teens, and knows she's in the wrong place, though in some way it's the right place. Once there she finds the seed for reading and gains more humanity and a part of herself even though she'll keep on running. Lured by the hope of fast money, and the sense of power that her own sexuality brings Jen rises, then falls, as a stripper as she attempts to escape the hard life through booze binges. She says good bye to the stripper life, rekindles relations with both parents', yet still has the urge to run. She hops from one job to the next on a path towards a college education. Along the way she settles down and wonders again about her own sanity as her fear catches up with her in the form of panic attacks. The ironic thing is that as her life gets calmer the old fears of not being safe find her, even though she discovers a home of her own making. It is what makes this story all the more human and real. For all its gritty edges Jen has an unshakable confidence and knows that if things get bad enough she can always run. Yet it's the staying with her own fear, her panic that gives her the most courage as she welcomes in romantic love and forms a tight friendship with her Grandma, and learns that running runs deep in her family but that some things like love you can run to instead of running away.
Pinnacle_Author_Book_Prom More than 1 year ago
Musical Chairs explores the life of Jennifer Knox. No longer feeling comfortable in her own skin and feeling like an outcast in her family, Jennifer takes matters into her own inexperienced hands; she leaves home and encounters frequent hardships along the way. On her own at such a young age, she is exposed to harsh realities that exploit her inexperience and her desperate longings for independence. Wondering why, at times, she feels so anxious and out of touch with reality, Jennifer bravely carries on and looks for answers, from the very family that she has left behind. Jennifer Knox examines mental heath issues, a dysfunctional family and searches for her own identity. Sometimes memoirs read more like fairy tales than real life; Musical Chairs is anything but! By telling her story to the world, Jennifer creates a dialog and confirms that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This memoir is written with purpose; not to scandalize or depress, but to educate and share the burden, making it easier to bear. Jennifer's persistence and her thirst for independence leads her to make some bad decisions; these poor choices temporarily keep her from reaching her full potential. Not realizing that her wanderlust could be one of many signs of mental illness, Jennifer leaves home when she is a young teen and ends up in many precarious situations with only her immature boyfriend and her childhood friend to confide in. Jennifer works a series of low-paying jobs until she eventually finds a job as an exotic dancer in a local club. Ashamed and nervous, Jennifer turns to alcohol to numb the pain and temporarily chase away the awkwardness. Some of the choices that she makes along the way lead to abuse at the hands of strangers; this in turn, leads to further emotional and mental harm. Without ruining the story for readers, it must be said that the author is a very courageous woman, to be sharing her journey with us. She has clearly established herself as a gifted writer. She sheds light on some controversial and deeply misunderstood issues. Anyone can turn their life around and find the help they need; Jennifer's story proves it! Copyright © Pinnacle: Author & Book Promotion --- Bobbie Crawford-McCoy
JTimothyKing More than 1 year ago
This memoir of Jen Knox's teens and early twenties appears not professionally edited. My complaints about typographical errors and narrative inconsistencies were counterbalanced, however, by the fact that I literally couldn't put the book down! I excused myself from the world while I blew through the entire thing in a little over a day, immersing myself in her story every moment I could. Really, no joke, no exaggeration: I read until I got tired; then I napped, woke up, and continued where I left off; lather, rinse, repeat Before I started the book, I half expected a melodramatic pity party for a life beset by personal tragedy and self-destruction. On the contrary, Jen drew me into her story, the story of a girl I could hardly believe existed. I sympathized and connected with her, through her experiences and choices, felt for her in her quest, desired to reach out to her and provide what I saw she was missing in her life. And I smiled when she finally began to find it. This is the reason I read independent memoirs, to meet people I might never otherwise know, through them to live experiences I could never otherwise fathom, and to win victories I would never otherwise have even pursued. And Musical Chairs generously filled that need.
Gregory_Gerard More than 1 year ago
I know I've discovered a good book when I start passing up TV or cafe time to get back to the story. MUSICAL CHAIRS, by Jen Knox, is just such a work. I generally prefer memoir - I believe sharing our stories is an important part of the American fabric. When I read the prologue of MUSICAL CHAIRS, I was quickly captured by the author's physical description of a panic attack. I've never experienced one but, in just a few short pages, I could feel the suffocating angst. I read the book in just a few sittings, following Knox's difficult and chaotic adolescence from the blue-collar backstreets of Columbus, through a teenage exotic-dancing career, to the redemptive search for definition in her family's heritage (revealed through the captivating character of her paternal grandmother). Jen Knox has mastered the art of 'show, don't tell.' She conveys complex layers and rich characters with simple phrases, like during a hospital visit when she reports that the doctor rushes off to help 'patients who were actually sick.' Or, when trying to understand her Grandma's mental illness, 'Grandma pursed her lips, outlining the inaccuracy with which she applied her cherry lipstick that morning.' I very much enjoyed her writing style. If you enjoy touching and experiencing other lives through well-crafted, insightful, and candid narrative, you'll enjoy reading MUSICAL CHAIRS.
TheBookInn More than 1 year ago
at age 15 runs away from home, turning to alcohol and stripping. Living where ever she can and when she gets to the bottom of her well, ends up getting raped. This is when she is faced with her alcohol abuse . After being severly ill and detoxifying her body, she decides to get her life turned around. The book is told in 3 parts, The Runaway, The Dancer and The Education. The latter telling about her Grandmother and how she learns of her mental illness and her family history of mental illness. Trying to sum up the story is very hard because it really needs to be read to understand this girls life from a rebellious teenager to a reckless, alcoholic life to finding out about her family history of mental illness and how it plays a part in her whole life. I highly recommend this book. Its an amazing story, true story and would be a good book for a young person who is struggling.
DiniLovesHerThrillers More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating and inspiring debut, which sorts through the experiences and evolution thus far in the life of a remarkable woman. I often find it difficult to finish memoirs, but this one is different - the pages simply flew by. Hers is a voice that feels at once both revealing and familiar, and I can't wait to see what's next from this author!
GregSans More than 1 year ago
This is a book written by a woman who seems determined to own up to her mistakes (a rare characteristic). Knox's voice is unique in the sense that it's realistic--the dialogue is vivid and intense. I found the transitions of perspective a little inconsistent throughout, but the insight and tough humor made up for it. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys memoir, autobiography, and philosophy; although the philosophical elements. Musical Chairs is a generous, unique story, and I'm glad to have read it.
WomenEvolving More than 1 year ago
Growing up in a tough neighborhood with all the love of family and friends around her, Jen took the stereotypical unforgiving role of a toughness that we have to procure to take care of herself. Bearing her pain behind alcohol she tries to find a way being selfless not to burden anyone.  This is truly, really a story about a very talented woman with a craft just waiting to be perfected. She never left home; she left a life that she thought she could never attain from. Very well done Jen! Lori Finnila aka 'Lori Jean' Composer, Lyricist, and Vocalist of 'The Voice of Women' 
jbkirkpat More than 1 year ago
Trite words such as riveting, engrossing, touching, brilliant, make us cringe when we read them in reviews. They are over-applied, by eager readers who want to help a good author. We see them, even in a crowd of other words, and certainly think them jaded. Keep them in mind though, as I tell you this. I sat this morning to read 'Musical Chairs'; something I've intended to do for ages. Jen has been a constant name in my list of author connections, more than a year now. As we do to one another, I buried her book under a few hundred others. I have been feeling the strain of my TBR, because most of it has a deadline attached, my mind has been seizing up. I wanted something real - not fiction - and that desire brought Jen's book very quickly to the top of my list. It was 6 a.m. when I started reading. It is noon now, and I've read every word of Jen's book, amazed. I'm savvy to some of Jen's presence on the internet. We toss banter as authors do, almost by accident, when we are at the same URLs for the same instant. But six hours after I sat with her, truly in person, I know more about her than I do some of my own family. 'Musical Chairs' becomes real and startling, moments in. My tired mind, which cannot process another zombie today, opened up to an emotional and honest experience I'm ashamed to have delayed. For a few hours, my breakfast went uneaten; my coffee chilled; the sun rose, and my dog settled elsewhere, knowing I was not getting out of my chair. Riveting means that you cannot turn away. I could not. Engrossing means that you will embrace the voice of the character. In this case - Jen Knox. Touching means that you are going to be led in emotions. She certainly does that. Brilliant, in this case I must confess a hitch. Jen remembers with a piercing clarity which I envy her. But, my own mother has a brilliant memory. Jen writes superbly, the first three words in this quartet of trites already attest to that fact. No, here I wish to re-define Brilliant for you. It is exactly what you might guess. I chose not to say Jen's book is illustrative of an educated, ordered, purposeful text. I want it to mean, after reading with my entire heart for six hours, that her book is filled with such light. She seems to be looking forever into her own sunrise. Each dawn is reaffirming that she has begun again. Her shadows are the transitory things. Her life is illuminated. This morning - it blinded me.
ApexReviews More than 1 year ago
Throughout the pages of Musical Chairs, author Jen Knox takes the reader on an introspective journey through the depths of her lifelong struggles along the path to self-realization. Plagued by the typical issues that vex teenagers worldwide, Jen was also forced to contend with a familial history of mental illness - and the damaging repercussions it could spell for her own life. Surrounded by a wide range of challenges - both internal and external - the courageous youngster soldiered on through everything from alcoholism to working as a stripper on her quest for ultimate redemption. Musical Chairs is a hard-hitting, no-holds-barred look at a truly tortured life. In it, Knox presents the reader with an enlightening, eye-opening glance into the raw depths of her conflicted adolescent mind and spirit, making no apologies for struggling with the same problems that serve as standard rites of passage for us all. What distinguishes Knox from countless others who may find themselves similarly distressed, though, is an innate sense of restlessness that fosters an ongoing compulsion to move and explore the world around her. In an effort to satisfy her all-consuming wanderlust, Knox engages in a series of adventures - and misadventures - that often lead her further away from the clarity and inner peace she seeks; the underlying resilience of her spirit, though, ultimately prevents her from straying too far, and the lasting conclusions that she finally reaches are both hard-earned and well deserved. Sure to resonate throughout your own mind and heart long after the final page has been turned, Musical Chairs is a stirring, poignant account of a life in constant flux. A recommended read. Cary Merriman Apex Reviews
Steve_Lindahl More than 1 year ago
This book is an exploration of a young woman's life as she moves from self centered, childish rebellion to a life that finds meaning in her relationships with other people. The writing is honest, sometimes brutally honest and because of that it hangs with the reader. I couldn't put it down. It is a book I would recommend to anyone, especially a parent, who wants to understand the way a rebellious young woman thinks.
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