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AS A YOUNG WOMAN Tilly flees home for the hollow underworld of Nevada looking for pure souls and finding nothing but bad habits One day after Tilly has spent nearly thirty years without a family drinking herself to the brink of death her niece Stella—who has been leading her own life of empty promise in New York City—arrives on the doorstep of Tilly’s desert trailer


10 thoughts on “The Gin Closet

  1. says:

    Depressing I don't mind it's the melodrama I'm not okay with Also the language that SEEMS precise but turns out not to be For example We got hot dogs from a vendor on the green and ate them with our fingers But how else do you eat a hot dog? And Her eyes were red like beets which isn't even possible Everything is always like something else and though a couple of these work most ring less than true and ultimately distractI really loved Jamison's story that came out a few years ago in A Public Space so maybe that's why I'm disappointed than I would otherwise be It's called uiet Men and it's great


  2. says:

    I am an extreme Leslie Jamison fan; The Empathy Exams is easily one of my top 10 modern essay collections and I found The Recovering shivery good raw and revelatory I'd always intended to get to this one her debut and I'm glad I finally did But reading it so far after the fact was a strange experience It's definitely a young book—juvenile and sweet and dark and hard and glimmering But at this point it was too much like reading a rough draft particularly since in The Recovering she does so much work to self analyze who she was as a person an author and an alcoholic when she wrote this It felt in retrospect almost too revealing as if I now knew the inside of her heart too much to be able to see the book at its proper literaryfictional remove But all the same it's very good; Jamison is one of our best writers working today I think and even in her nascency she shines


  3. says:

    Three things this novel does that I wish contemporary novels didRenders the way people stammer at each other Juxtaposes of families and lovers being awkward and conflict avoidant with each other with super dramatic sex and death scenesMakes me like the characters best when they're messing other people's shit up for no rational reason and messing up their own livesOtherwise it's hard to uantify what makes it so good except that each sentence is beautifully written and each character feels whole and painfully real


  4. says:

    I was completely thrilled altered and overtaken by The Gin Closet which I had the great luck of reviewing this past January I can’t voice enough excited praise in favor of this novel Jamison’s prose is attuned to the cadence of poetry while driven by an energetic narrative impulse The novel is split between the first person perspectives of Stella “so greedy for everyone else’s” life and her estranged aunt Tilly a severe alcoholic and former prostitute in a trailer park in stark isolation in the desert Their voices dovetail and frame a portrait of the entire spectrum of personal suffering and the pain within intimacy Outward from the horrific gin closet Tilly’s private drinking space in which lie a bare mattress and countless gin bottles spins much of the catastrophic drama of the novel Jamison demonstrates her acute trust both in the consciousness of her characters and her readers Stella and Tilly who want to be both seen and unseen in their shame and sickness struggle in their relationships Stella with her icy mother and a married man Tilly with her child Abe and her ultimate tortured relationship with drug and drink Both women desire intimacy but cannot bridge the vulnerability it demands and so must manifest their incommunicable needs to one another through self destruction They expose their wounds to one another to communicate At the points most writers stumble lurch and turn away Jamison stands still stares and turns our faces to stare along with her Of particular importance is the obliue beauty and taut sensuality of Jamison’s language and imagery Where Stella’s speech is intricate and nested Tilly’s speech has a blunt lyricism “Dry days were long The hours piled Clocks moved slowly The minutes of my life stretched out like the salt flats”I cannot recommend this book enough Jamison is a writer we need to know and apprehend and will continue to for a very long time


  5. says:

    When Stella goes to visit her Grandmother Lucy for Christmas she finds her on the kitchen floor where she’d fallen earlier in the day As Stella was helping her up Lucy says “I need Matilda” Stella has never heard of anyone named Matilda and asks her brother if he knows who Matilda isSeeing that her grandmother needs help Stella decides to spend every other night with her helping to take care of her While she’s taking care of her grandmother Stella discovers that Matilda is her mother’s sister and is curious as to why she’s never before heard of her aunt When Lucy passes away Stella offers to deliver a letter to Matilda to let her know of the death of her mother thus beginning their tenuous relationshipThe Gin Closet by Leslie Jamison is the story of a family’s dysfunction and the struggles of two members of that family to form a family of their own The story is told in alternating viewpoints by Stella and Tilly Matilda so sometimes you get the same story told twice Jamison tackles some tough issues many of which will make the reader uncomfortable in this beautifully written book It’s hard to believe this is her debut novelI was drawn into this book right from the start I was really curious about who Tilly was and wanted to know her story The story mostly focuses on Tilly and at times I wanted to know about Stella’s background so I would know how she got to be in this place in her life Tilly’s life is sad and she really frustrated me at times yet my heart broke for her The ending of the book left me sad and reflective Overall for me this was a good but not great solid read


  6. says:

    This manages to be a beautifully written novel that's also a very fast read I enjoyed devouring the story of twenty something Stella and her alcoholic aunt Tilly The narrative switches between both characters and I loved each narrator's distinct voice I also really liked the various settings New York City Connecticut Arizona San Francisco So many lovely and rich and true details This is a dark tale about self destruction and the limits of intimacy There's a lot of good and sickening writing about misusing one's own body for the oblivion of inebriation for the welcome lightheadedness and attention that comes from not eating for the brief distraction of sex that temporary relief of not being aloneAt times the book felt a little angsty I can't think of a better word for my taste and there was a meandering uality to the second half that made me long for a stronger narrative drive or focus even as it remained readable That said I was totally taken into this dark raw world and I look forward to Jamison's next book


  7. says:

    This is one of the bleakest stories I've read in a long time There isn't a single character who isn't living in intense pain Tilly's life is so sad that it was hard to read about it especially when you know there are Tillys everywhere There is no redemption for her in the end Abe and Stella are lurching through their lives unsettled unhappy and making uestionable choices It is hard to imagine where they will go from hereHonestly what a downer of a novel


  8. says:

    I could not wait to be done with this book and kept hoping something interesting or unexpected would happen The author writes details and descriptions seemingly because she learned that in a writing workshop somewhere They are meaningless and choppy resulting in flat characters plotted out on a predictable story line I would not recommend this book


  9. says:

    Much tender flesh is abused in this novel through aging alcoholism eating disorders sex with unlikable people everyday violence and it eventually became too painful for me to continue


  10. says:

    1 It begins slowly It takes its time Reading the blurb all giddy it’s like you submerge yourself in a tubful of water and extending the metaphor the actual exposition is when you surface all slow mo That’s how reading this novel is like Is that a bad thing? No Why? Let me explain Jamison allows the Rudolph family to solidify before our eyes By not immediately plunging us into the drama of that “fragile triangle” the actual family dynamics—before meeting Tilly how the family had changed upon her leaving thirty years ago—are better explored better established Did I wish things were speeded up a little? No not really One of the things I admired about this novel was that it was for lack of a less trite phrase calmly violent It was leashing in all that angst and pain making every scene charged making every character interaction brim with meaning Which is an odd observation I know for a family wrecked by estrangement and indifference and many other demons—but that’s how it is It’s painful because all those secrets the weight of thirty years on the characters’ shoulders You can’t insist on speed when you owe it not only to the readers but to the characters themselves Still Jamison’s got such tight control for a subject matter that could go every which way2 Can I tell you how awesome the very concept of a Gin Closet is? It’s that little room in a house where you think you can store away all your demons In Tilly’s case it’s filled with bottles of gin It’s where she rots it’s where she’s held prisoner it’s where she believes that things are under control as long as the demons stay locked inside that room with her But of course she’s wrong It’s genius I tell you—you don’t need concrete rooms you don’t need walls Just your mind telling you I can handle this see how I can handle this?“What do you need?” I asked “How can I help you?”“I do it in the dark” she said “I can’t stop”I stayed uiet I let her keep going“I turn off the lights and take little sips—just little sips one after another Then I sleep and I wake up and I think maybe I don’t know it’s stupid what I think but maybe if there’s a door I can close that maybe I don’t know it’s a kind of an ending”3 One of the most laudable things about the crafting of this novel was its language And if you’ve been following me you know I can’t talk about a book without talking about its language And Jamison’s language blew me away She has a way saying things plainly but true and raw and honest—when the situation demands it Look at this snippet of dialogue one that focuses on how the characters never really talk to each other“Did you miss me?” I saidHe said “I’m glad to be with you now”4 Tilly damaged Tilly we never really know why she became the way she was even with the alternating POV she remains a mystery The reader is left to conclude that perhaps some people are really just prone We don’t even really know why Stella is doing what she’s doing—a messianic complex brought on by how crappy and pointless her own life is? Does Stella even know why she’s doing this? Is that lame? Am I making excuses for Tilly for Stella for this novel? I like to think that I’m not I like to think that Tilly and Stella—and Abe and Stella’s mother—are all too human in that they’re unknown even to themselves no I will not bust out my Philo readings I have always hated characters who know too well what they are who know their motivations There’s self aware and then there’s cardboard cut out So yeah That’s what I think5 Also You know what this book reminded me of? Change Baby by June Spence But this is grittier if only because it’s set in cities rife with things that could easily be bad for you The Gin Closet is a meandering story of loss and redemption and yes many failures This is not a feel good novel You will not be inspired If you want to believe in the fairy tale goodness of people I suggest you steer clear of this book But if you want something human something that speaks about how we disappoint ourselves and we disappoint the people we love—how we walk away from things that we value and can’t uite the things that will only destroy us—pick this novel up It’ll be nerve wrecking read you’ll sigh many times But it’s damned good storytelling and I cannot wait for Jamison to litter our bookshelves with her work