The Glass Eye: A Memoir by Jeannie Vanasco

The Glass Eye: A Memoir

The night before her father dies, eighteen-year-old Jeannie Vanasco promises she will write a book for him. But this isn't the book she imagined. The Glass Eye is Jeannie's struggle to honor her father, her larger-than-life hero but also the man who named her after his daughter from a previous marriage, a daughter who died.After his funeral, Jeannie spends the next decade...

Title:The Glass Eye: A Memoir
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Edition Language:English

The Glass Eye: A Memoir Reviews

  • Jamie

    An absolutely beautiful exploration of family, grief, memory, and madness, this book is OUTSTANDING.

  • Mike

    A deeply affecting chronicle of grief and obsession, written in lucid, graceful prose.

  • Rachel

    Grief, Jeannie Vanasco writes in The Glass Eye, is inexplicable. To really describe it, one must often approach it adjacently through metaphor, as Vanasco does in her attempts to piece together the story of her unravelling after her father’s death. How can words adequately represent the oceans of pain that swell and drown us? How can we make sense of grief, which often renders us senseless? How does one capture the magnitude of loss?

    Vanasco struggles with these questions in her memoir, the book

    Grief, Jeannie Vanasco writes in The Glass Eye, is inexplicable. To really describe it, one must often approach it adjacently through metaphor, as Vanasco does in her attempts to piece together the story of her unravelling after her father’s death. How can words adequately represent the oceans of pain that swell and drown us? How can we make sense of grief, which often renders us senseless? How does one capture the magnitude of loss?

    Vanasco struggles with these questions in her memoir, the book she promised her father she’d write for him. But it’s a different book than she’d envisioned; it’s the story of the human mind as it attempts to cope with the illogical. It’s her exploration of the devastation she suffered, the fine thread of her sanity barely holding her together. And, in a way, it’s what she always meant to write: in her mourning and her struggle to cope with a new reality, we see that at the heart of it all lies a woman whose love for her father is all-consuming, is extraordinary. An experimental memoir that would make Maggie Nelson proud, The Glass Eye is a literary tour de force, a hurricane of language and emotions that fly off the page, a testament to love and loss and how the lexicon of grief, though universal, is always a personal discourse.

    [Thank you to the lovely Tin House for the galley!]

  • Stephanie

    This book took my breath away. I read it in one sitting; I didn't want to turn away. I keep returning to the scenes, the sentences, the words and marveling at what Jeannie Vanasco has accomplished. I feel privileged that she shared her father's story - and her story - with the world.

  • Claire Fuller

    I loved this memoir about Vanasco's grief which spirals into mental illness after the death of her father. Although, perhaps the mental illness was there all along, it just took the death for it to properly manifest itself. This is something that Vanasco discusses in a wonderfully round-about way. The book is broken up into many very short pieces, all of which build and gather to give a really intimate view of what life is like for the author, and how she becomes obsessed by her dead half-sister

    I loved this memoir about Vanasco's grief which spirals into mental illness after the death of her father. Although, perhaps the mental illness was there all along, it just took the death for it to properly manifest itself. This is something that Vanasco discusses in a wonderfully round-about way. The book is broken up into many very short pieces, all of which build and gather to give a really intimate view of what life is like for the author, and how she becomes obsessed by her dead half-sister whom she was named for. I often felt like I was right inside Vanasco's head as she works things out on the page, and also right inside her present time, as she even grapples with editing her book (shout out to Masie Cochran from Tin House!).

    Highly recommended.

  • Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    3.5 strong stars.

    Jeannie Vanasco bares her soul in The Glass Eye: A Memoir. There were times it made me squirm with discomfort. But it also touched my heart and made me appreciate her willingness to be vulnerable.

    The narrative thread is more of a spaghetti-like jumble of disparate elements. Vanasco illustrates both her writing process and her mental illness by jumping around thematically and chronologically. And yet, she finds a way to move forward in the memoir and life.

    At eighteen, Vanasco agr

    3.5 strong stars.

    Jeannie Vanasco bares her soul in The Glass Eye: A Memoir. There were times it made me squirm with discomfort. But it also touched my heart and made me appreciate her willingness to be vulnerable.

    The narrative thread is more of a spaghetti-like jumble of disparate elements. Vanasco illustrates both her writing process and her mental illness by jumping around thematically and chronologically. And yet, she finds a way to move forward in the memoir and life.

    At eighteen, Vanasco agreed to write a book for her dad as he was dying. They were extraordinarily close, since she was born when he was older and had more opportunity to be her caregiver. Because of this strong bond, Vanasco suffers from a long and complicated grieving process. Her father also experienced horrible grief when his 16 year old daughter died in a car accident. Vanasco was given the same name (spelled slightly differently) as her half sister. Now add into the mix the author’s mental illness, and you can see the complexities of this memoir.

    Jeannie’s deepest grieving moments felt like a kick in the chest, yet my reaction was to feel so much compassion for her. I can’t imagine processing all this grief at such a young age.

    The Glass Eye isn’t a long book, but it took me a long time to read it. I’d read for a while, and start to feel overwhelmed with sadness. So I’d put the book down, and pick it up when I could face the pain again. But after a week or two of this, I decided to take a day and power through the last 100 pages. I’m glad I did, because that’s where the beginnings of resolution appear.

    I applaud Vanasco for her persistence in getting this book and her experiences on paper. She chose an incredibly difficult topic and handled it with skill. I’d pick up more of her work in the future, since I can’t help but feel some maternal instincts towards her. Although to say I enjoyed this book would be a stretch—that’s mostly due to the content not the writing style. I hope it gives Vanasco closure and the impetus to continue moving forward.

    I received a copy of The Glass Eye from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Thanks, Tin House Books.

    Also published on

    .

  • Chandra Graham Garcia

    Memoirs about mental illness and grieving are NOT supposed to be trending. But memoirist Jeannie Vanasco doesn't care. Indeed, her commitment to grief and overcoming mental illness are compulsions inseparable from the crafting of her story. And....vice versa.

    Craft is ever-present as Vanasco propels us--in swift, linear fashion--through a three-dimensional web of twentysomething dangers: overachievement, the loss of a parent, confusion of self, the blurring of past and present, obsession, and rad

    Memoirs about mental illness and grieving are NOT supposed to be trending. But memoirist Jeannie Vanasco doesn't care. Indeed, her commitment to grief and overcoming mental illness are compulsions inseparable from the crafting of her story. And....vice versa.

    Craft is ever-present as Vanasco propels us--in swift, linear fashion--through a three-dimensional web of twentysomething dangers: overachievement, the loss of a parent, confusion of self, the blurring of past and present, obsession, and radical bi-polar binges of excess and terror. By "ever-present," I refer to her frequent, detached observation of the writing process. This is a highly irregular choice, given that the universal goal of storytelling is for the author to recede. But here, the authorial asides helpfully unite disparate pieces of the story. Ditto for the visual structure of each passage under subject headings. (Don't expect sections titled "Mom" or "Dad" to feature alternating points of view. Just be grateful for the heads up.)

    If Vanasco is aware that her emphasis on manic, illogical research evokes visions of Homeland’s fictional Carrie Mathison, all the better. The beauty and thrill of "The Glass Eye" is that the plate-juggling narrative never breaks character. Not once. Neither does it navel gaze. These are notable achievements for a memoir about the pitfalls of mental illness mired in protracted grief.

    Better yet: there is no excess of poetic or artful language here, no obligatory details. Just commitment to truth finding and telling. Consequently, the book reads as fast and well as a spirited thriller. Will the grieving ever end? Will the mystery of Vanasco’s long-dead half-sister be solved? Will Vanasco reveal her mental illness to the people in her story? To you?

    Many recent memoirs focus on the too-early loss of parents. Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and Regina McBride’s “Ghost Songs” are of note. But “The Glass Eye” is more strident and narrow. More risky. “Risky” plus “easy-to-read” represents the union of two literary unicorns. Feel free to binge.

    "The Glass Eye," TinHouse Books, release date October 3, 2017.

  • Leslie Lindsay

    When I came across a write-up of

    in a recent-ish POETS & WRITERS magazine, I knew I had to read it. And I'm so glad I did.

    Jeannie becomes obsessed with her father's death, but also a dead half-sister who

    When I came across a write-up of

    in a recent-ish POETS & WRITERS magazine, I knew I had to read it. And I'm so glad I did.

    Jeannie becomes obsessed with her father's death, but also a dead half-sister who shares her name. Years ago, Jeannie's father was married to someone else. They had four daughters, one of those daughters died in a horrific car accident when she was only 16.

    All along, Jeannie has made a promise to someday write a book for her father. This wasn't exactly the book she had in mind, but it's the one she wrote to better understand herself, her mental illness, her relationship with her dad. Told in a slightly fragmented series of vignettes, THE GLASS EYE reminded me a lot of the style and structure used in Rachel Khong's

    Some may find the headings, 'MOM,' 'DAD,' 'JEANNIE' and 'MENTAL ILLNESS' slightly distracting, but there's a reason for them, as the author points out.

    Some reviewers mentioned the tendency for redundancy, and have to say, I think this was all part of the structural scope.

    Each time Vanesco mentions something again, it's with new clarity or insight.

    well done.

    THE GLASS EYE also incorporates many aspects of the writing life, home, mothers, and memory that makes it a truly unique read. Those who read and enjoyed

    (Melissa Cistaro) will also enjoy THE GLASS EYE. Stay tuned, too for the forthcoming

    (Gayle Brandeis).

    For all my reviews, including author interviews, please see:

    Special thanks to Tin House Books for this review copy. All thoughts are my own.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I wanted to read this because of the connection to grief and fathers. It took a long time to read, but it isn't particularly long - I think the way everything is in fragments, the way the events and thoughts cycle and repeat, and the way Jeannie stops and steps back and considers what she has written on a pretty frequent basis - all these elements make the book feel longer than it probably needs to be.

    The element of mental illness is rough to read, because even now I get the impression that the

    I wanted to read this because of the connection to grief and fathers. It took a long time to read, but it isn't particularly long - I think the way everything is in fragments, the way the events and thoughts cycle and repeat, and the way Jeannie stops and steps back and considers what she has written on a pretty frequent basis - all these elements make the book feel longer than it probably needs to be.

    The element of mental illness is rough to read, because even now I get the impression that the memoirist is not as aware of her own mental illness as everyone around her is, including, now, the reader. She insists to every concerned family member and every therapist/psychiatrist that this is the grief causing this behavior, this isn't mental illness. But anyone who knows about mental illness (and something I learned from reading

    ) knows that a major catastrophic event can trigger the brain into a cycle of mental illness that is then impossible to escape. It is clear that this is the case for Jeannie. She is obsessive and out of control, self-harming and manic. It is frightening to read about, and for me, I almost felt party to it, by continuing to read the book, the book she insisted on writing despite the advice to the contrary.

    In that sense there is no overarching feeling of perspective, and I think that's why it feels so repetitive. The author reflects or hones in on specific details, checking her memory with her mother's memory, keeping all her old drafts and journals and recordings to verify, because her mental illness confuses those details. But it feels like she is somehow not seeing it from the perspective the rest of us see it. I can't decide if this is brilliance in writing and structure (and therefore deliberate craft) or if this is illness spilled onto a page. The discomfort it causes for me as a reader makes it hard to rate.

  • Helen Zuman

    I read the first few pages of The Glass Eye a few days ago; then, a couple nights later, I took it to bed with me and stayed up way too late to finish it. Yup, it's gripping.

    Initially, I didn't expect this book to be a page-turner, thanks to its many section breaks and its pauses for meta-narration. But, despite its gentle fracturing, the story hews to a strong chronological through-line (the protagonist's journey through her father's death and her consuming grief to a degree of peace), and has

    I read the first few pages of The Glass Eye a few days ago; then, a couple nights later, I took it to bed with me and stayed up way too late to finish it. Yup, it's gripping.

    Initially, I didn't expect this book to be a page-turner, thanks to its many section breaks and its pauses for meta-narration. But, despite its gentle fracturing, the story hews to a strong chronological through-line (the protagonist's journey through her father's death and her consuming grief to a degree of peace), and has clear stakes: the protagonist's health and sanity, her mother's trust in her father's honesty, the protagonist's access to the truth of how her sister died. Also, Vanasco's clear, spare, flawless prose makes for a smooth ride, free of linguistic speed bumps.

    Like another reviewer, I wondered, while reading, whether Vanasco was contesting her diagnosis of mental illness; part of me wanted to know exactly where she stood on the subject. However, I also see the value of letting the reader make her own judgments, and leaving room for the kind of ambiguity that arises when we allow ourselves to question our basic assumptions about mental health and mental illness (I remember reading an interview in The Sun magazine in which the interviewee said that the proper response to someone who hears voices is to ask that person what those voices have to say). What I get from Vanasco's approach is a desire to shed light on all facets of her protagonist's complex and whirling consciousness, without condemning any of them as needing to be cut out.

    As a fellow memoirist (and former MFA student), I was especially interested in Vanasco's portrayal of her MFA experience - to which, it seemed to me, she applied the same agnosticism with which she treats her mental illness. At one point, she lists a number of criticisms (of her work) received from fellow students - just lists them, without comment. Are they helpful? Ridiculously off base? It's unclear. Maybe they're simply fascinating objects of study, for a mind that constantly files, dissects, combines, and recombines.

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