Jeannie Vanasco bares her soul in The Glass Eye: A Memoir. There were times it made me squirm with discomfort. But it also touched my heart and made me appreciate her willingness to be vulnerable.
The narrative thread is more of a spaghetti-like jumble of disparate elements. Vanasco illustrates both her writing process and her mental illness by jumping around thematically and chronologically. And yet, she finds a way to move forward in the memoir and life.
At eighteen, Vanasco agreed to write a book for her dad as he was dying. They were extraordinarily close, since she was born when he was older and had more opportunity to be her caregiver. Because of this strong bond, Vanasco suffers from a long and complicated grieving process. Her father also experienced horrible grief when his 16 year old daughter died in a car accident. Vanasco was given the same name (spelled slightly differently) as her half sister. Now add into the mix the author’s mental illness, and you can see the complexities of this memoir.
Jeannie’s deepest grieving moments felt like a kick in the chest, yet my reaction was to feel so much compassion for her. I can’t imagine processing all this grief at such a young age.
The Glass Eye isn’t a long book, but it took me a long time to read it. I’d read for a while, and start to feel overwhelmed with sadness. So I’d put the book down, and pick it up when I could face the pain again. But after a week or two of this, I decided to take a day and power through the last 100 pages. I’m glad I did, because that’s where the beginnings of resolution appear.
I applaud Vanasco for her persistence in getting this book and her experiences on paper. She chose an incredibly difficult topic and handled it with skill. I’d pick up more of her work in the future, since I can’t help but feel some maternal instincts towards her. Although to say I enjoyed this book would be a stretch – that’s mostly due to the content not the writing style. I hope it gives Vanasco closure and the impetus to continue moving forward.
I received a copy of The Glass Eye from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Thanks, Tin House Books.