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The Gin Closet: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, May 3, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Jamison's beautifully written debut follows independent young New Yorker Stella and her estranged aunt Tilly as they form some version of a family. Stella is disenchanted with her life and job as a journalist's personal assistant; Tilly is a professional lost soul, a former prostitute, and an unsuccessful recovering alcoholic. To all appearances, Stella is the savior, finding Tilly, who's been shunned by the family, to rescue her; but through alternating first-person accounts, the reader grows to view the two women as equals. Their experiences with men especially mirror one another's; Tilly has merely had worse luck. Stella describes wanting a man, any man, who could offer his face as a label for my loneliness; later, recalling men she's been with, Tilly says, most of them I didn't even like that much, but they seemed like the easiest way to change my own life. The relationship between Stella and Tilly is compelling, as are their relationships with auxiliary characters, like Stella's brother and Tilly's son, but what truly drives the novel is Jamison's gorgeous prose. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

First-time novelist Jamison portrays three generations of “wounded women” in an exquisite blues of a novel. The youngest, pretty Stella, is living the hip, single New York life, but she takes the train to Connecticut at night to care for Lucy, her grandmother, from whom age is stealing strength and clarity. When Stella learns a family secret, that she has a long-estranged aunt, she finds Tilly in a trailer park in Nevada and becomes entangled in her toxic sorrows. Narrating by turns in each lonely woman’s voice, Jamison creates emotionally complex scenes of harsh revelation in language as scorching as the gin Tilly downs in terrifying quantities. Stella is nearly as bedeviled, having struggled with the weird, dicey power of anorexia. The two make their way to Tilly’s banker son’s fortress of an apartment in a sketchy neighborhood in San Francisco, where all three are forced to recognize the limits of love. With trenchant cameos by other women teetering on the brink, Jamison’s novel of solitary confinement within one’s pain is hauntingly beautiful. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143915323X
  • ASIN: B0071UP2IM
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,635,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alayne VINE VOICE on June 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes you pick up a book and it ends up being one of those truly amazing pieces of writing, the kind you wish you could have created when you were in your early twenties with college-angst. The kind professors yearn for and literary critics swoon over. Leslie Jamison makes me green with writers-envy. Her ability to take a string of simple words and turn them into a profound sentence blew me away on (what felt like) every page.

On the material surface, The Gin Closet is a novel about two women, one trying to find herself, one trying to survive. When Stella learns she has an estranged aunt she packs up her meaningless New York City existence and moves to the desert to help this broken woman cope with alcoholism and loneliness. Tilly is a mess, she seems to only hurt the people around her and has been that way she since she was young. She hasn't had an easy life so when Stella turns up Tilly surfaces from her gin-induced waking-coma to think of the life she could possibly have, a life that means something, a life near her son in San Francisco. Together, Stella and Tilly embark on a trip, not a journey to somewhere even though they have a destination; more a sort of movement, fumbling many times along the way.

Told from both women's first-person points of view, Stella is damaged, and Tilly is lost. The dueling narratives juxtapose these women, and give the reader a unique sense of being each of them, as well as watching each of them. This is a novel about family paradigms, but more specifically, female family paradigms: what it means to be a mother, a daughter, or a sister; what we do to our family and what is done to us. Jamison draws a true, poignant portrait of the dichotomy between female relations.
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Format: Hardcover
While the premise of the book sounded compelling--niece Stella tracking down her wild, runaway aunt , the writing seemed to get in the way of the story. Every paragraph was packed with similes and description like an imagery assignment for a creative writing class. I kept thinking enough already, let's get to some story, some action. I appreciate good writing and creative use of language but this book contained just too much. As for the story, there wasn't much of it . . . I agree with what another reviewer said. If you like a character study, than perhaps this book would appeal to you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Red Baker, by Robert Ward … I picked this up the day Ben Whitmer suggested it on Facebook. He thought I’d enjoy it and he was right. I absolutely did enjoy it. Originally penned 25 years ago, Red Baker drops an exclamation mark on what so many blue (and now white) collar workers across this country are experiencing—the loss of their jobs, whether through technology, outsourcing or in- country cheap labor (not to mention a steady decrease in salary in a country that likes to boast about how good everyone has it here—we’re talking 30 consecutive years of a decline in wages for the middle and poor classes).

The Gin Closet … Leslie Jamison’s debut novel is a gritty work that drives the reader across the country in an attempt to solve a family puzzle (or two); a missing daughter/aunt/sister. Matilda (Tilly) was the directionless odd daughter compared to her determined and focused sister, but how (and why) does a mother let a daughter go? The opening scene is a grabber for sure; Stella (not me) finds Lucy (her Grandmother) on the floor—she’s been there for a while. While being cared for, Lucy mentions her missing daughter. Stella is Tilly’s idealistic niece and after learning from her grandmother about a missing daughter, an aunt Stella never knew about, she wants to know more. Stella has been anorexic (definitely not me) and has been on the bad end of a relationships with a married man (pregnancy = abortion). Before her grandmother (Lucy) dies, Stella confronts her overly focused/rigid mother (Dora) about her Mom’s missing sister (Matilda/Tilly), then seeks Matilda to tell her in person (before her missing aunt receives a cold letter from a lawyer) about the death of her mother … and a journey begins.

Tilly has lived a dire life. Prostitution and booze haunt her.
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Format: Hardcover
The Gin Closet is an extraordinary split portrait, beautifully illuminated and profoundly original. Stella and Tilly are both estranged--from their families, from the world. At once reflective and searching, they reveal themselves with unflinching candor and sensitivity.

Jamison's prose is lyrical but never protrusive, each moment of language perfectly distilled and woven into the narrative.

Its intimacy, its flashes of humor, its unrelenting honesty--this novel is often challenging and always magnificent.
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Format: Hardcover
First thoughts after finishing: There are so many damaged people in this world. Many keep the damage to themselves while others have absolutely no problem dragging everyone else in their life down with them. This wasn't a lighthearted read by any means and it wasn't even one that I particularly enjoyed. But there was something about the way the author crafted the characters that made me care about them and made me want to hear their story.....as twisted as it was.

Recommend? Yes and No. Yes, if you enjoy reading about the inner demons of women and the destructive ways that they punish their bodies as if that will somehow make their life right again. No, if you don't enjoy reading about dysfunction. I do want to add that I thought the author's voice was exquisite and that the story flowed beautifully. The subject material was depressing and made me sad. The book elicited emotions from me and that counts for something.
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