Thursday, December 7, 2017

I'm the One Who Got Away: A Memoir

Title:  I'm the One Who Got Away:  A Memoir
Author:  Andrea Jarrell
Publication Information:  She Writes Press. 2017. 176 pages.
ISBN:  1631522604 / 978-1631522604

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Susannah was murdered just before Christmas but I didn't find out until after New Year's."

Favorite Quote:  "Pleasing someone else is easy for me, but enjoying my own pleasure takes a different kind of letting go."

Recognizing the need for change takes courage. Change takes courage. Life takes courage. Writing that story down and sharing it with the world takes courage. That courage is what this memoir is all about.

Andrea Jarrell and her mother escaped an abusive relationship. Over her life, she saw her mother time and again return to a controlling and abusive situation. As a child, she learned what she saw - not the leaving but the returning to such a relationship. This pattern led to two things in Andrea Jarrell's life - an extremely close relationship with her mother and a tendency towards similar decisions as an adult. It took a lot of self-examination and work to break that pattern. That is what this memoir is all about.

This book starts with a death. That moment seems to symbolize an epiphany for the author to make a change. The "why" of that is never really explained other than a statement that the death occurred by the hand of the woman's boyfriend. The fact of that death has very little to do with the rest of Ms. Jarrell's story. Why did that moment become a trigger for change? What finally awakened the realization that a change was needed? Is it simply because the death was of someone she knew as opposed to the many such news stories that sadly emerge almost daily? The opening seems more a dramatic launching pad for telling this story rather than an integral part of the story itself.

The story itself is written as a series of nonlinear vignettes, essays strung together to create a picture. Based on research, it appears that parts of this book have appeared previously as stand-alone essays and have begun as short stories. The story-like approach is also clear in the fact that the memoir includes quoted conversations from before the author's birth (for example, from her parent's first meeting) and from her childhood when she would be too young to remember. Clearly, artistic license is used in creating a readable story. This story-like, self-contained approach does make the book a very quick and easy read.

What stands out about this book is that the story and hence the author is relatable. The book feels like a conversation with a friend. I find myself nodding in agreement in places and wanting to express an opinion in places. The flip side of that is the fact that the story is not about dramatic moments that I, as a reader, I look for. It is a quiet story of an individual navigating the challenges of life as we all are.

What stands out the most in the book is the character of Ms. Jarrell's mother. Here is a woman who marries a controlling, abusive man at the age of sixteen. She becomes a young mother. She finds the courage to take herself and her daughter out of a damaging situation. She creates a life for the two of them. Yet, time and again, she reverts back to that same relationship. How and why? Now, her perspective is a story I want to know more about.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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