Sunday, 20 December 2009
Musical Chairs: Review
By Jen Knox
Published by All Things That Matter Press
Published in 2009
This book was sent to me by the author for review. I was not paid for this review.
Musical Chairs is an honest look at the struggle of a young girl to find her place in the world whilst battling against mental illness and addiction. Jen opens up her past and her world for the reader to see and although what we might see is not always pretty, it is definitely compelling. The narrative floats between novel and memoir, weaving the thread of fact and life into a wonderfully readable story.
The story starts when Jen is 15 years old, but as we come to understand the story has actually started a long time before she was even born as the character of Glory, her Great-Grandmother is revealed through stories her grandmother tells her as she obsessively looks for answers that no-one seems to be able to provide. As soon as she runs away from home, it seems that Jen is always running - but from what doesn't become clear to her for many years. She isn't silly and knows what she needs to do to succeed in life, but frustratingly it's life that seems to keep throwing stumbling blocks in her path. Many times when I was reading this I found myself thinking that this could so easily have happened to many people. The toxic combination of circumstance, lack of institutional knowledge about more pervasive minor mental illnesses and some ill-advised choices of a young woman unsure of herself and in the company of those who would seek to exploit her lead to some heart-breaking situations.
What I really liked about this book was the way the story was told. It is simply put onto the pages for the reader to absorb, enjoy and take from it what they will. When reading a story like this, all too often the reader finds themselves being beaten over the head by some kind of message - listen up, reader! It's terribly important that you get this key point from this book! - but even though there is a thought-provoking conclusion to this story it's not expounded upon ad nauseam.
It is impossible for the reader to not get caught up in this story. It's is well-written, absorbing and best of all, real. Not just in the "this actually happened" way but real in the way that you could be sitting across the kitchen table from Jen, sipping a cup of tea whilst she tells you about her life. A great read.
Image credit: All things that matter press