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A well crafted, insightful, and candid narrativeI know I ve discovered a good book when I start passing up TV or cafe time to get back to the story MUSICAL CHAIRS, by Jen Knox, is just such a work I generally prefer memoir I believe sharing our stories is an important part of the American fabric When I read the prologue of MUSICAL CHAIRS, I was quickly captured by the author s physical description of a panic attack I ve never experienced one but, in just a few short pages, I could feel the suffocating angst I read the book in just a few sittings, following Knox s difficult and chaotic adolescence from the blue collar backstreets of Columbus, through a teenage exotic dancing career, to the redemptive search for definition in her family s heritage revealed through the captivating character of her paternal grandmother Jen Knox has mastered the art of show, don t tell She conveys complex layers and rich characters with simple phrases, like during a hospital visit when she reports that the doctor rushes off to help patients who were actually sick Or, when trying to understand her Grandma s mental illness, Grandma pursed her lips, outlining the inaccuracy with which she applied her cherry lipstick that morning I very much enjoyed her writing style.If you enjoy touching and experiencing other lives through well crafted, insightful, and candid narrative, you ll enjoy reading MUSICAL CHAIRS. Jen Knox s book, Musical Chairs, is a story of choices and consequences The author lays out her life, like open heart surgery Her chest is open, revealed bloody red and pulsating It is at once unsightly and fascinating But there is something else in Jen s opening up to us, her honesty and refusal to make excuses She lays there, splayed open for us to see, declaring, Here I am Running was in her blood, a destined event, it would seem Following in the footsteps of her great grandmother, Glory, who defiantly set out on her own at the same young age, and finding commonalities of mental illnesses among the women in her family, Jen must ve realized her course was set out for her organically.What I like about this book and its author, is the lack of excuses Jen s decided to share herself with us a hard task, indeed and she s not going to sugar coat it or defend it what she will do, however, is attempt to understand her choices and actions and how they fit in to shaping her identity In the writing of Musical Chairs, a memoir blatant and unapologetic, Jen is doing just that trying to make sense of herself within the larger family history.Yet, for all of the similarities Jen discovered between herself and Glory, there is at least one difference Glory ran away from family, while Jen s running brought the both of them back. 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 survivedangerous 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. I m not a people person That s my first line at job interviews.It would beaccurate to say that I ve never been interested in autobiographies Or biographies, for that matter I suppose I exalt imagination over reality and never desired to learn something from the actual lives of others Don t try this at home I d rather take my chances And I never succumbed to hero worship, either, wanting to know what they were like if such a thing has any meaning So how did I end up reading a memoir A few months ago, I completed the research I ve been doing for my new novel so I finally returned to reading books for pleasure But hold I have a stack of GoodReads authors books collecting under my coffeetable All of these books were either traded in exchange for my first novel or were purchased online while the author purchased my book in kind It s an interesting and somewhat nerve wracking process because I don t want to waste my time on crappy books, and I don t like the idea of trashing a virtual friend s book On the other hand, I hope to discover a few hidden gems this way and some books I d never read otherwise Fortunately, Jen Knox s Musical Chairs is in the latter group.I had no idea that memoirs were a whole genre of autobiography If someone put me up against a wall say, a Genre Executioner I d say an autobiography was for famous people, and a memoir was for the rest of us I Wikipedia d memoir, and apparently such is not the case The distinction is ambiguous, but autobiographies apparently relate the narrator s entire life, while memoirs arelikely to focus on particular events or time periods and are less interested in names dates people And famous people do write memoirs Why not they re famous They can do ANYTHING.Given my prejudice, I was skeptical I would enjoy this book, thinking that the only memoir worth reading would surely feature stories like How I invaded Poland and lost Anyone else who wrote a memoir was self indulgent, weren t they I mean who cares How interesting could Jen Knox s story be Well, it was pretty damn interesting She might not be famous, but she was an alcoholic runaway stripper now writer with panic attacks who nearly died a couple times Her life is worth reading about This is confessional writing, so it deserves praise just for being that I imagine it must ve been difficult to put into words for the world to read And if it wasn t come to think of it, perhaps it would have been valuable if she had expounded a bit on how she felt about baring her soul pardon the pun to the general public and even her family.Without a doubt, this book is an interesting read The central question of it remains rather ambiguous, however I do not call this a flaw because it s clearly honest She talks about why she thinks she became a stripper and why she ran away, and she says it wasn t low self esteem or daddy issues, but was primarily that both actions seemed glamorous to her She also mentions having a need to keep moving and not slow down in association with her running away But I can t help but wonder why her NEED to be glamorous or keep moving reached such an extreme level that it drove her to run away or turn to stripping I want deeper answers And I ll tell you why because I m having a daughter myself in just about a month, so Now, I want to be clear I m NOT psychoanalyzing Jen, nor am I presuming to understand what really drove her I am about to make a textual analysis based how I would snoop through any novel to understand its meaning Call it reader response More than anything else for me, this book was a cautionary tale about how not to be a FATHER She says it wasn t Daddy issues what kind of Daddy issues would those be , but I didn t find this bare statement convincing because it wasn t backed up by the text He comes across as both domineering and distant unemotional and unaffectionate She tells one story of him forcing her to run and run and run with him in the park against her will, and to me it read like torture Jen never blames him, which is probably a good thing for her She has taken responsibility for her actions Yet given my reading of the story as an outsider, if someone asked me after reading it why this 15 year old Jen Knox ran away, I d say it s because her father was so alternately distant and controlling that her life burst out of its gates And given that her father seemed so central he may or may not have told her don t come back when she said she was going to leave , I wish there had beentime spent on him I may have missed it, but I don t recall a detailed physical description of him, which would ve helped me imagine him better.Of course, the truth may be otherwise if there is any such thing but given where my head is right now, with fatherhood coming, this is my interpretation It would appear that I did learn something from this story after all Love your kids and show it openly without telling them what to do Find a way to balance discipline with freedom Then, hopefully, your daughters won t run away and become strippers and your sons won t carry guns and sell cheap pot Good pot, yes Cheap pot, no.This book gave me a lot to chew on Given I m a skeptic about autobiographies, I hope you ll take this as review as a ringing endorsement. Jen Knox has written a short story collection that unveils the souls of its characters through simple vignettes and everyday experiences She finds a kind of painful poetry in the mundane choices we make, or the paths we find ourselves stumbling down as the result of decisions we didn t even realize we were making Even when her characters speak rationally, they seem driven by emotions of which they aren t fully aware There is an admirable lightness of touch on display here, no showboating, no moralizing Knox is humane without being sentimental Her characters aren t always sympathetic, which makes them all thebelievable The stories tend to flash fiction length with the longest being 13 pages but most just a few Even so, they felt sufficient to communicate a contained experience without leaving me wantingThey each captured a brief chapter in someone s life, and they did it realistically My only criticism She deserves a much better cover than she got The cover verges on sappy, and that s a very poor reflection of the emotional honesty on display here. Everyone has their own walk through life to take, how they choose to take that walk and how one deals with the consequences of their choices I believe shows a persons true strength of character After everything Jen had endured during her life, Jen definitely is a woman of high character and strength Musical Chairs is a great book for everyone to read Young woman who pick up this book will think twice about the choices they will be making soon in their own lives.It is a deep book revealing things about one s life that most people would choose never to talk about and Jen holds nothing back from her readers.I recommend Musical Chairs to everyone. In Musical Chairs, Jen Knox has created a captivating memoir that explores her life as a young teen runaway, to the issues of mental illness found within her family Jen bravely tells her story about life on her own at the age of 15, leading up to a short career as a strip dancer, all the while battling an all consuming addiction with alcoholism Jen s writing is very vivid and fluid, and I felt as if I were right there, immersed in her world As she struggles to get back on her feet after a few false starts she ultimately finds herself again Her family bonds are strained and tested, and after years of discord, they are able to finally find each other once again Jen provides a candid and honest look into her life as she comes of age I found it a deeply moving bookone which I thoroughly enjoyed. Forreviews seeand ALVAH S BOOKS Jen kindly sent me a copy of this book to review, and I zipped through it in a couple of days The story begins in an AA meeting, and it reads rather like a series of episodes told in front of an AA audience I also have an addictive compulsive personality, so I m sympathetic the AA sequences in Infinite Jest were the part I liked best When you ve fucked up big time, sharing the experience with other people seems to be a positive thing to do Maybe I should try this, but it s not as easy as it looks I thought of writing the review in parody homage style, telling a similar story about how I d fucked things up in my own life at some point, and found I couldn t do it Jen s gotcourage than me good for her But maybe I ll learn something from her account.The basic story is, I suppose, unremarkable, but it s well told, and I kept turning the pages to see what would happen next Jen grows up in a bad part of town her parents fight, and divorce when she s about 15 she runs away from her father, who s been given custody, and gets into drink and drugs after a while, she lands herself a job as a stripper Later, she has to put her life back together again I liked her descriptions of stripping, which are insightful and sensitive It s demeaning in some ways duh , but, something I hadn t properly understood before, it s also empowering Jen compares it with writing David Lodge does that too, in Small World but I m pretty sure that he s never worked as a stripper, and I prefer Jen s version, even though Lodge s is slicker One point she makes is that it s much easier to do this kind of thing drunk Perhaps I should have a few drinks myself some evening, and see if that helps me write in a new way.I should say that I ve never met Jen, despite the fact that I keep using her first name, but after reading her book I feel I know her well She s a nice person, and has worthwhile things to tell you Definitely one of theinteresting and memorable books I ve read this year. `Download ⇢ Musical Chairs ⇤ Musical Chairs Explores One Family S History Of Mental Health Diagnoses And Searches To Define The Cusp Between A S Working Class Childhood And The Trouble Of Adapting To A Comfortable Life In The Suburbs In Order To Understand Her Restlessness, Jennifer Reflects On Years Of Strip Dancing, Alcoholism, And Estrangement Inspired By The Least Likely Source, The Family She Left Behind, Jennifer Struggles Towards Reconciliation This Story Is About Identity, Class, Family Ties, And The Elusive Nature Of Mental Illness