In this powerful and ruminative memoir, Vanasco explores the years following her father’s death as her grief transforms into an increasing obsession with her half-sister Jeanne, who died before Vanasco was born. Her own distress is complicated by a mood disorder that causes her to hear voices and attempt suicide and that she believes is caused by her unending misery. Though Vanasco never met her sister, she draws parallels between her despair and the effect her sister’s death had on her father. In one of the narrative’s most striking turns, she learns that she has inherited a burial plot purchased by her father next to Jeanne’s grave. Vanasco expertly weaves trenchant metaphors throughout the text, particularly with her father’s glass eye, which represents his mortality and the fragility of life. The narrative is framed with Vanasco’s reflections on writing as she attempts to fulfill the promise she made to her father the night before he died, that she would write a book about him. Though her description of the actual event of her father’s death is deeply moving, Vanasco is less successful when describing her writing process, which can veer into overly affected introspection (“I drew my childhood home and wrote ‘Metaphor’ on all the windows”). This is an illuminating manual for understanding grief and the strange places it leads. (Oct.)
"Wildly innovative. "
The Glass Eye, Jeannie Vanasco has produced a debut of incisive vision. In prose as vivid as a novel and as chiseled as poetry, Vanasco shows the reader that memoir can entail an unexpected, ultimately liberating reckoning."
The Glass Eye, Jeannie Vanasco shows us why rules should be broken: because an elegy that pulses with immediacy, a fragment that is inextricable from a whole, a book that comments on its own writing can smash what you think you know into pieces, and expose a piece of truth so bright it might be your own broken heart, handed back to you."
"Jeannie Vanasco has crafted a book that will worm its way under your skin, a book that will not give you easy answers or heartwarming takeaways, much in the same way that life will not give you easy answers or heartwarming takeaways. Jeannie Vanasco has created a book that I cannot stop thinking about."
"An absolutely beautiful exploration of family, grief, memory, and madness, this book is outstanding. . . . The layers found in this memoir are as plentiful as the layers found in the human eye; ultimately, it is as deeply layered as the human experience itself."
"A fascinating meditation on loss, and an enduring monument to what remains. Wise, brave and beautifully wrought,
The Glass Eye signals the arrival of an exceptionally fine new voice."
The Glass Eye the writer asks, in prose that mesmerizes with geometric precision, how we can orient ourselves to the world when our only compass is grief. What begins as an experience of profound loss becomes an obsession, the fierce intensity of which propels readers through this breathtaking book."
"Compelling . . . Vanasco writes about her episodes of mental illness in a way that makes them so accessible, almost seeming rational at times."
"Hypnotic . . . a haunting exploration of perception, memory, and the complexities of grief. In language that is understated and economical, Vanasco brings to life the father she loved with an almost frightening force . . . Vanasco's characters and settings are vivid, prismatic, and surreal."
The New York Times Book Review
"Brilliant . . . Reminiscent of Maggie Nelson's
The Argonauts . . . As the pages fly by, we’re right by Vanasco, breathlessly experiencing her grief, mania, revelations, and—ultimately—her relief."
"I have never read anything quite like
The Glass Eye. . . . I've never read a book where the author is experiencing mental illness at the time of writing, not in retrospect. The writing is fierce and engaging, and I truly couldn't put it down."
The Glass Eye is memoir as it ought to be, but so rarely is: beautiful and painfully raw, but also restrained and lyrical. Vanasco is brilliant, and this book proves it."
"Vanasco's candor, curiosity, and commitment to human understanding are not to be missed."
. . . Vanasco's humor and intelligence shine through her journey of loss."
"Vanasco explores the intricacies of the human psyche with stunning poignancy."
"One of the most inventive and engrossing memoirs I've read in a long, long time . . . If you want to read something that will make you think and that will keep revealing more to you every time you read it, this is the book."
"This powerful, haunting memoir starts off with one of the more compelling first sentences I’ve read in some time: “The night before he died, I promised my dad I would write a book for him.” [
The Glass Eye is] a journey that takes Vanasco into the dark depths of her family history, as well as her own psyche, and it shows in an incredibly intimate way the methods we use to cope with loss, disappointment, and grief, and how we can try and make our way out of the darkness and into a place of recovery."
"An unfettered dive into a brilliant, unraveling mind. Vanasco's memoir is visceral, poignant, and ultimately an affirmation of the healing power of literature and the resilience of the human soul. Astounding."
"An experimental memoir that would make Maggie Nelson proud,
The Glass Eye is a literary tour de force, a hurricane of language and emotions that fly off the page, a testament to love and loss and how the lexicon of grief, though universal, is always a personal discourse."
"[A]n intense and unforgettable memoir, as fascinating for its artistry as for its subject matter. . . . Lyric, haunted, smart and tortured, this is an obsessive love letter to a dead father as well as a singular work of literature."
"This is memoir at its best. The prose is powerful and often breathtaking—it’ll make your heart break, it might make you cry, and you’ll probably even laugh a few times. This is an elegy fierce and lyrical and raw, like none I’ve read before."
"Jeannie Vanasco expertly explores the trinity between grief, psychosis, and creativity in a taut memoir about her beloved father and all that arose in his absence. This book has a blazing lyricism to it, one that’s bound to be a trademark of Vanasco’s limber mind. . . .
The Glass Eye—spare, deep, and kaleidoscopic—will make you want to read the first page again after you finish the last."
The Glass Eye is absolutely brilliant! Jeannie Vanasco taps into her own mental and emotional destruction after her father dies in a memoir that is constructed like no other. Not only did her writing transport me into her world (her mind), but Jeannie’s ability to express the complexities of the human mind in such a beautiful and honest way, made her mania appear almost rational. . . . One of the best memoirs I’ve read in a long time."
A young women's grief-stricken meditation on the loss of her beloved father illuminates a lifelong battle with crippling bipolar disorder and depression.In her debut memoir, Vanasco (English/Towson Univ.), whose writing has appeared in the Believer, the Times Literary Supplement, and other journals, digs deep into the kind of obsessional thinking that proves to be every bit as constricting as it is impenetrable. Within its sad confines, however, there also exists rich, fertile lands filled with the possibility of lifesaving self-discovery, which she explores in unadorned, sparse prose that builds in power as it accumulates. She recalls mostly fond memories of her father: "I taped photographs from my childhood along the silver rails of the bed: my dad reading a book to me despite the white patch over his eye; my dad pulling me in a wooden sled; my dad clutching me on his lap and looking off somewhere as if he knew this was coming." What loomed ahead for the author was a terribly long and lonely struggle beginning, at age 18, to come to terms with her father's death—and to find meaning in the short life of a mysterious Jeanne, her half sister from her father's previous marriage. Jeanne, who was killed in an automobile accident as a teenager, has cast a long shadow over Vanasco's psyche, infecting her sense of self while also promising to bring her closer to her father. The author's relentless introspection, which includes almost offhanded recollections of terrible self-harm and institutionalization, manages to cast a spotlight on the art of memoir itself, as she valiantly struggles to find the best medium possible to convey the true essence of a daughter's love for her father. A deceptively spare life story that sneaks up and surprises you with its sudden fecundity and power.