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Musical Chairs Paperback – October 3, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Jen Knox is an exceptionally gifted storyteller, who can take the events of the past and craft them invariably into engaging and compelling narratives. 
--Phillip Lopate, author of Notes on Sontag

Jen Knox has accomplished what so many memoirists do not - she told her story in a clear, unsentimental voice with lovely prose that read like a well-crafted novel. 
--Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Knox has had ups and downs with her family and she tells her unusual and touching story, making "Musical Chairs" a very intriguing and recommended read that will entice many memoir readers. Starred Review.
--Midwest Book Reviews


This is one of those books that lingers long after the last page.
--Heather McIntosh, author of Small Animals First

About the Author

Jen Knox earned her MFA from Bennington's Writing Seminars and works as a fiction editor at Our Stories Literary Journal and a Creative Writing Professor at San Antonio Community College. Some of her publication credits include Annalemma Magazine, Bananafish, Eclectic Flash, Flashquake, Foundling Review, The Houston Literary Journal, Metazen, Midwest Literary Magazine, Short Story America, Slow Trains, SLAB, Superstition Review, and Quiz & Quill. Forthcoming work will appear in Narrative Magazine. Jen grew up in Ohio and lives in Texas. Her second book, To Begin Again, is forthcoming in 2011. 
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: All Things That Matter Press (October 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984259422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984259427
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #903,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jen Knox is the Writers in Communities (WIC) Program Director at Gemini Ink. She teaches creative writing in San Antonio and regularly contributes to literary and news publications, including Fiction Southeast and MJI News. Jen studied English at Otterbein University and completed her MFA at Bennington's Writing Seminars.

Her writing earned finalist status in The Adirondack Review's 2013 Fulton Award as well as Glimmer Train's Fiction Open, Family Matters, and Short Story Awards. Her short story, "Types of Circus," was selected by Dan Chaon for inclusion in Wigleaf's Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions. Her work has been featured in over seventy magazines and her novel, We Arrive Uninvited, was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize in 2015. Jen is currently working on Rattle: A Novel-in-Stories.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Musical Chairs" is Jen Knox's gutsy autobiographical story. It is also the weaving together of four generations of family pain and coping into a tapestry rich in that most elusive quality - the truly human.

This is a no-holds-barred book. Knox is painfully honest about herself, her past, and her battles with anxiety, restlessness, and booze. She doesn't offer rationalizations, psychobabble, or excuses. Instead, she looks for and finds the strength that comes from facing life with honesty and acceptance.

If, at times, the reader is reminded of Camus at his best, it is because Knox too finds meaning within the helpless, repetitive pointlessness which is the human condition. And, if at times, the reader feels like the author's pain and struggle are reminiscent of Kafka, it is because "Musical Chairs" is told with an attention to detail that make every moment burn itself into consciousness.

I would recommend this book to every reader. I would particularly urge it for every young woman who feels ready to take responsibility for her own life. And, if it were in my power, I would make sure it was given to every teenaged girl who attends or should be attending AlaTeen or ALANON; for this is a book which offers much to those who would choose to learn. (Kenneth Weene, PhD, author and psychologist)
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Format: Paperback
This is a gripping, well-paced and clearly written coming-of-age story, in which a young woman finds her voice, her balance, her connectedness with her grandmother--but to get to the point of self-confidence and voice, she must go through her own personal hell. The narrator was a teenage runaway who worked as a stripper for a short time. Her intelligent self-awareness during that phase of her life is inspiring, and yes, very sensual,

This book reminds me of Catcher in the Rye, though the book in hand is creative nonfiction. It's about time we had a heroine who's smart, sassy, brave, ready to deal with adversity from within her own mind and from the external world. I'm also reminded of Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle, which features another spunky articulate female narrator. Wall's book is a best-seller, and Jen Knox's book should be too.

I wish my sister had had this book when my niece began to experience a long series of troubles. No one in the convoluted health care system had much to offer. Luckily my niece was able to clean up and to survive dangerous streets. She is a painter and has landed on her feet with her visionary art.

For the narrator in Musical Chairs, words are the angels, hard-won.
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Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating and inspiring debut, which sorts through the experiences and evolution thus far in the life of a remarkable woman. I often find it difficult to finish memoirs, but this one is different - the pages simply flew by. Hers is a voice that feels at once both revealing and familiar, and I can't wait to see what's next from this author!
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Format: Paperback
Jen Knox is an exceptionally gifted storyteller, and her memoir Musical Chairs is a captivating, emotionally charged page turner.

Soon after her parents' divorce, young Jen is riddled with teenage angst, and in desperate need to find her place in the world. Aged fifteen she leaves home and enters an adult world where some (are only too eager) to take advantage of her vulnerability. Jen grows up quick.

There is a tragic irony to Jen's story; she battles with booze which many in her family have struggled with and mental illness. I applaud Jen for facing her demons head on, and managing to restore her life while having many adversities to contend with.

I strongly believe Musical Chairs should be part of every school curriculum as the lessons in life are invaluable.

I highly recommend Jen's story as a must read for all.
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Format: Paperback
With her unique voice, the author tells the poignant, yet raw, story of her journey to adulthood, living on the streets as a runaway and her ultimate struggle to establish her own identity as a woman who truly values herself. This is one of those books that lingers long after the last page is read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I was reading Jen Knox memoir, "Musical Chairs", I also happened to be reading Mackenzie Phillips's, "High on Arrival". This gave me a comparative perspective on the two books. If you haven't already read "High on Arrival", my advice would be don't bother and read "Musical Chairs" instead. Jen Knox's book is what Mackenzie Phillips's book should have been.

These books are the first ones for each author. Being a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I'm typically for any book that brings this horrific subject into the public realm. How else can such things be dealt with? Pretending that such things don't happen, or that they always happen to someone else conveniently outside our families, doesn't seem to work very well. So, I was really enthused when Phillips's book came out. I watched the Oprah interview (and one or two of the others) and ordered her book.

In my opinion, Mackenzie Phillips is still in "pretend mode". Her continual justifications of her father's actions and affirmations of her love for him really grew tiresome. At this point I can't even imagine that Phillips will be able to stay away from drugs. Let's face it, she's only been "clean" long enough to write the book (with the aid of coauthor Hilary Liftin - and even that didn't help much). Phillips last arrest for drug possession was only a little over a year ago:

[...]

Problems like Phillips has don't get fixed in a year. Her message seems to be:

1). If you're in an abusive situation, continue in it until your perpetrator dies.
2). Once that happens try to see if you can fix what's left of you, but only after you get thrown into jail for possession.
3).
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