If Only You People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir

If Only You People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir

by Jessica Hendry Nelson

Paperback(First Trade Paper Edition)

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If Only You People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir by Jessica Hendry Nelson

If Only You People Could Follow Directions is a spellbinding debut that reimagines the memoir in Jessica Hendry Nelson’s thoroughly original voice. In these linked essays, Nelson’s fearless writing and hypnotic storytelling centers on the story of three people: Nelson’s mother susan, her brother eric, and Jessica herself. These three characters are deeply bound to one another, not just by the usual ties of blood and family, but also by a mother’s drive to keep her children safe in the midst of chaos. The book begins with Nelson’s childhood in the suburbs of philadelphia and chronicles her father’s addiction and death, her brother’s battle with drugs and mental illness, her own efforts to find and maintain stability, and her mother’s exquisite power, grief, and self-destruction in the face of such complicated family dynamics. each of the book’s chapters concerns a different relationship—friends, lovers, and strangers are all at play—but at its heart the book is about family, the ties that bind, enrich, and betray us, and how one young woman sought to rise above her perilous surroundings.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781619024670
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Publication date: 01/13/2015
Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 666,374
Product dimensions: 7.70(w) x 5.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Jessica Hendry Nelson earned a BA in English from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Threepenny Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Alligator Juniper, Fringe, and PANK. A chapter from this book, "The Whitest Winter Light," is a Notable essay in Best American Essays 2012. Currently, she is the senior nonfiction editor of The Fiddleback, a literary journal, and lives in Colchester, VT.

Read an Excerpt

He visits us in our dreams and sometimes he has a mustache and sometimes he doesn't. We talk about it together and say remember this and remember that. It is 2002 and it will never end. We say remember the time he shaved his mustache and came down to breakfast and nobody noticed for a while and then you noticed and cried out, "Dad doesn't have a top lip!" which was true enough, and then he grew it back and never shaved it off again.

He visits us when we are so stoned and driving through the neighborhood in reverse and listening to his favorite songs and talking about the time when I was nine and you were seven and we went door to door selling off his tape collection for a dollar apiece. It is 2000. That was 1990. But of course we got caught and had to go back to each house and return the sweaty balled up dollar bills from our pockets, which we held out in our trembling palms like a peace offering.

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If Only You People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If Only You People Could Follow directions is one of the most beautifully written, heart wrenching, and hopeful memoirs that I have read in recent years. Jessica Hendry Nelson's voice is clear and honest and amazingly hopeful. Jessica puts into words what we feel and what we think. Moving back and forth in time, Nelson captures the moment clearly, like a movie playing in your head.....love it and highly recommend it to all who have ever lived and loved...I want more from this talented young writer!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Intense, mesmerizing, unflinching, compelling - all words to describe this debut memoir, told in a series of essays. Filled with heartbreaking beauty, exploring the ties that often bind families together and break them apart, this book moved me greatly. I couldn't put it down.
MdExTx More than 1 year ago
This is a powerful memoir of growing up in the author’s addiction riddled family. Her father died young, and her younger brother is in and out of institutions and jail due to his drinking, drugging and law-breaking. It’s beautifully written; the author’s use of language is masterful. I only have a review copy of the book, so I can’t quote from it. There is a rhythm to her writing that evokes the repetitive promises that alcoholics make and break with such regularity when she is talking about her father in a “letter” to her brother that opens the book The book is a series of vignettes of Ms. Nelson’s life, obviously times that made an impression on her. And her writing about them leaves a profound impression on her readers. She manages to convey the confusion, hurt, and hopefulness that individuals caught up in the maelstrom of alcoholism and addiction live through. I haven’t read such an affecting memoir since I read Mary Karr’s The Liars Club the first time. In my opinion, Ms. Nelson is every bit as good a writer as Ms. Karr, and in my world that’s high praise. I highly recommend this book. Even if you’re not interested in dysfunction families the writing alone is worth reading. I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago