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Musical Chairs

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  312 ratings  ·  99 reviews
Musical Chairs explores one family's history of mental health diagnoses and searches to define the cusp between a '90s 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 sh ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published October 3rd 2009 by ATTM Press
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Average rating 4.04  · 
Rating details
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Nov 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Profoundly Honest and Deeply Moving Journey into Adulthood

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;
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 ...more
Dec 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
David Katzman
Mar 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who enjoy confessional memoirs
I’m not a people person. That’s my first line at job interviews.

It would be more accurate 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 mem
Jennifer Roberts
Sep 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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, Gl
Dec 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 thi
David Katzman
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Amber Lehman
Jan 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jen Knox
For more reviews see Amazon and ALVAH'S BOOKS ...more
Gregory Gerard
Jan 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An amazing, candid memoir of a young girl at age 15 runs away from home, turning to alcohol and stripping. Living where ever she can and when she gets to the bottom of her well, ends up getting raped. This is when she is faced with her alcohol abuse .
After being severly ill and detoxifying her body, she decides to get her life turned around.
The book is told in 3 parts, The Runaway, The Dancer and The Education. The latter telling about her Grandmother and how she learns of her mental illness a
Dec 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Jen Knox pulls no punches with her gritty, honest memoir, "Musical Chairs." From the first page, she tells her story of self-medication, mental illness and family problems in evocative prose reflective of her experiences.

Knox is unafraid and unashamed of discussing the mistakes she makes after running away from home at the age of 15. From working miserable minimum wage jobs to stripping, her experiences run the gamut. Eventually she is able to attend college and earn a degree in English, which c
Feb 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dynamic-reads
I thoroughly enjoyed Jen's memoir, and anyone who appreciates the art of simple expressions singing to you will fall head over heels in love with the writing too. Not one word is wasted, and I do mean not a one! It's the key ingredients that preludes a page-turner, which Musical Chairs most certainly is.. For me, this account wasn't about a fifteen-year old girl who ran away from home, danced, ran from home to home some more, and found her niche. Just taking one itty-bitty frame of many such fra ...more
Kenneth Weene
Oct 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I've just started reading this insightful exploration of the difficulties in keeping sane in this stressful world. So far it is an outstanding read.
Katherine Marple
Apr 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Musical Chairs read like I was sitting across from Jen (the author) and sharing a cup of coffee with her. It was very engrossing, engaging, and really really good. We watch Jen make mistakes as a child, but you can hear her "older" self talking, reflecting and sharing her learnings.

The voice of Jen is very easy to "listen" to. She writes very eloquently. I wish there was a more flesh to her story, but somehow I have a feeling that if there was more, we'd get lost in the "muck" of it. Maybe bree
Paul Bryant
Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I look at some of the books on my actual real life to-read shelf and say why are you there? I can’t remember buying you. How did you get here? Answer me! Did the author break into my house and leave this book here? But I don’t think Jen Knox did that, I think she lives in Ohio. It’s a long way from Ohio to Nottingham. Of course she might have been in England for a holiday. But I think I got this in the wake of reading Candy Girl : A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody and Liv ...more
Apr 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. The grit and honesty of her troubled youth shares the stage with humor and hope. From her brief stint as a stripper, to her alcohol abuse, to her fears of mental illness, the author is open and entirely unafraid to expose the soft underbelly of herself and her family. One of the most remarkable things about this memoir is that the au ...more
Steve Lindahl
Oct 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is an exploration of a young woman's life as she moves from self centered, childish rebellion to a life that finds meaning in her relationships with other people. The writing is honest, sometimes brutally honest and because of that it hangs with the reader. I couldn't put it down.
Feb 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: indie, memoirs
Finally, a memoir that isn’t wholly depressing or full of purple prose glorifying cozy memories. I tend to shy away from memoirs because of reminiscent qualities or ‘what I’ve learned’ advice and reflections. This is a poignant account of one girl’s journey from childhood to adulthood. The story is well-crafted through a fluid telling that is both engaging and honest. The author offers no excuses, but rather details her life events as they unfolded. Nothing is glorified or horrified, but exposed ...more
Feb 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
THanks to the person that suggested I read this memoir! I was simultaneously entertained and impressed with the way the author depicted schenes from what I swore she must have evesdropped from my very own diary- only more cleverly expained. If you have history of generalized anxiety and job changes, this is a must read! I was facinated and captivated. In so many ways this book gets me out of writing my own story. The book for us girls that made it back from the very brink....
Jerry Travis
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
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 hor
Jen Knox
Feb 06, 2011 added it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition

In this book, I attempt to capture those pivotal moments that we (powerful word, we, I know) can all look back on in our lives; those moments that prove that sometimes the small decisions lead to the most monumental transitions. Stories and narrative essays from this collection have been published in Annalemma, Bananafish, Flashquake, Superstition Review, and elsewhere.

Some of the stories:

In “Soft like Snow”, a young girl thinks about running away from an abusive home, but as she reflects upon
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Musical Chairs is a surprising book. Lots of dry humor and odd circumstance. I recommend it.
Christy Stewart
Apr 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, nonfiction
I hate memoirs. The reason I hate memoirs is because they are a self-indulgent pieces of shit written by attention whores. Poor Ms. Knox didn't know that I felt this way when she offered me a copy of her book so kudos to her for writing a good enough book to checkmate my cynicism.

Knox gives a frank outline of her life in a well crafted way that shows her talent at writing. She is honest and keeps the book within interest for the reader and not just herself. There was a lot I could relate to and
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I found Jen Knox's story fascinating, insightful and thought-provoking. I would recommend this book to readers of all genres, whether they usually read memoirs or not. There is so much in this story that thrills and entertains, probably as much if not more than a fiction story. It would be great to see this life story portrayed in a film as some of the scenes literally come off the page. There are many memorable scenes, and Jen Knox has written her story with passion, and compassion for her youn ...more
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Musical Chairs (Jen Knox)
Memoir. This is the story of a young woman Jen, who runs away at age 15. It is not just a "run-a-way teen" story, but one that reflects on a family. A family that has dealt with mental health issues for generations. Also set in a rough part of Columbus Ohio, young Jen tries to escape the "big city" life (poverty and crime).

She soon turns to alcohol, numerous jobs leading to strip-dancing. There she tells of the hardships, horrors , fast money and fast times. As she goes
Oct 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Musical Chairs is a candid, compelling and highly-readable postmodern quest narrative. It’s a deeply searching examination of an unconventional coming-of-age story, rife with complicated family dynamics, impulsive decisions, alcohol abuse, terrifying consequences and, ultimately, one woman's determination to live life on her own terms. Knox never makes excuses nor apologizes; nor should she. Instead, she embraces her difficult youth and endeavors to understand what that experience can teach her ...more
Dec 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
There are many things I love about Jen Knox’s “Musical Chairs” but my favorite part of the book is when her mother takes her to a support group for people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Knox is a child in this scene in her memoir and her innocence is heartbreaking. She dresses up meticulously, complete with gold-colored earrings, and asks whether they would get dessert after the meeting. But when she sits through the meeting and sees it involves sharing sad, sad stories, she asks what I think is ...more
Jenny Orozco
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Knox's To Begin Again sizzles and crackles with the stuff of life.

I've been guilty of gravitating to mostly popular novels. A great number of them are watered down versions of writing, cotton candy visions wrapped in saccharine adjectives and banal adverbs.

This collection of short stories and essays made my fingers tingle and my feet fidget. I always have a physical reaction to excellent prose; it is something to which I have never been able to become desensitized. But Knox's stories were diff
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A reflective, compelling, and evocative collection of short stories.
The first story in the collection really drew me in. It's a story that makes you question human nature and really makes you think. After reading that I was sure I was in for a very interesting journey reading this anthology. All of the stories have a 'fly on the wall' feel to them, as if you are watching events unfold that you would not usually be made privy to. I use the word 'watch' as it really felt to me as I read Jen Knox's
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