Author Jen 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 family she left behind, Jennifer struggles towards reconciliation. This story is about identity, class, family ties, and the elusive nature of mental illness.
GEMS: Finally a memoir that isn’t wholly depressing or full of purple prose glorifying cozy memories. I tend to shy away from memoirs because of reminiscent qualities or ‘what I’ve learned’ advice and reflections. This is a poignant account of one girl’s journey from childhood to adulthood. The story is well-crafted through a fluid telling that is both engaging and honest. The author offers no excuses, but rather details her life events as they unfolded. Nothing is glorified or horrified, but exposed for the reader to see, which allows for sympathy, not pity. Nothing is over done, which gives the story a truthful and believable quality. The comic relief and timing is perfect and does not distract from the gritty topics presented.
FLAWS: Although I could never personally achieve what Knox accomplished with this book because the pain of self-examination is too terrifying for me to explore, I think there are places in the story that are a tad rushed. The connection between grandmother is clear as far as ‘running,’ but my curiosity is also drawn to the lineage of mental illness and alcohol. I want to know to date, even after her move, how is Jen coping with these struggles, or is she?