Review: I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert
Title: I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of Life Through Events – the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don’t
Author: Gilbert, Jennifer
Length: 211 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Publisher / Year: Harper / 2012
Source: From the publisher for review.
Why I Read It: Being a book dealing with trauma and recovery, I thought it would be a helpful read.
Date Read: 25/04/12
At the age of twenty-one, Gilbert was brutally attacked by a stranger in New York City. In this book she chronicles her life up to that event, and what it meant to her after. She discusses the ways in which the attack changed her and her life, the ways in which she interacted with others afterwards. She talks as well about how she got through and learned again to smell, to laugh, and to enjoy life – and to feel as if she even deserved any of these things.
The book is well written and covers a wide variety of events in Gilbert’s life. By discussing her work, family, and friends as well as her physical and mental well-being, she shows the ways in which the event affected her moving forward. This decision allowed the book to have some lighter moments as well, to keep the book easier to read. Additionally, by spending so much time on her life now, we can see the hope and the lessons which she wishes to share with us from her own struggles.
What Gilbert gives is a glimpse, for anyone who hasn’t survived any kind of attack or assault, of what it was like for her. For anyone who has been there, I at least always find it reassuring to see some shared experiences. She points out early on that no one can ever know what it is like for anyone else to experience what they did, and that sometimes the reactions of others can increase the sense of being alienated and alone.
“I learned that this is what “at least” means: Move on. Get over it. Let’s not talk about it. It could be worse, so it must be better.” (page 21 – quote from advance review copy)
“I’m sure this was meant to be encouraging. But the message I received was that I should feel lucky to be blessed with such resilience, and that they expected me to bounce back, just as good as new. Meanwhile, I couldn’t imagine leaving my house without an armed escort.” (page 28 – quote from advance review copy)
The book is incredibly personal and I can’t thank the author enough for writing it. I think it is important to get more of these narratives out there. The feelings of shame and disgust that she describes and that many others also experience could possibly be lessened if everyone knew of other personal experiences like hers.
I highly recommend this book to all. We all have our own “at least” moments and Gilbert’s message that these really are dirty words is an important one. Her experiences can help us all to treat others better, and to treat ourselves better. A great and inspiring read.