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The Gin Closet

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3.44  ·  Rating details ·  922 ratings  ·  147 reviews
AS A YOUNG WOMAN, Tilly flees home for the hollow underworld of Nevada, looking for pure souls and finding nothing but bad habits. One day, after Tilly has spent nearly thirty years without a family, drinking herself to the brink of death, her niece Stella—who has been leading her own life of empty promise in New York City—arrives on the doorstep of Tilly’s desert trailer.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by Free Press (first published 2010)
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3.44  · 
Rating details
 ·  922 ratings  ·  147 reviews


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Rachel
Apr 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
Depressing I don't mind, it's the melodrama I'm not okay with. Also the language that SEEMS precise, but turns out not to be. For example: "We got hot dogs from a vendor on the green and ate them with our fingers." But how else do you eat a hot dog? And "Her eyes were red like beets," which isn't even possible. Everything is always "like" something else, and though a couple of these work, most ring less than true, and ultimately distract.
I really loved Jamison's story that came out a few years a
...more
Oriana
Jul 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
I am an extreme Leslie Jamison fan; The Empathy Exams is easily one of my top 10 modern essay collections, and I found The Recovering shivery good, raw and revelatory.

I'd always intended to get to this one, her debut, and I'm glad I finally did! But reading it so far after the fact was a strange experience. It's definitely a young book—juvenile and sweet and dark and hard and glimmering. But at this point it was too much like reading a rough draft, particularly since in The Recovering she does
...more
Benjamin
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Three things this novel does that I wish more contemporary novels did:

Renders the way people stammer at each other

Juxtaposes of families and lovers being awkward and conflict-avoidant with each other with super-dramatic sex and death scenes

Makes me like the characters best when they're messing other people's shit up for no rational reason and messing up their own lives

Otherwise it's hard to quantify what makes it so good except that each sentence is beautifully written and each character feels
...more
Kathy (Bermudaonion)
When Stella goes to visit her Grandmother Lucy for Christmas, she finds her on the kitchen floor, where she’d fallen earlier in the day. As Stella was helping her up, Lucy says, “I need Matilda.” Stella has never heard of anyone named Matilda and asks her brother if he knows who Matilda is.

Seeing that her grandmother needs help, Stella decides to spend every other night with her, helping to take care of her. While she’s taking care of her grandmother, Stella discovers that Matilda is her mother’
...more
Edan
Jan 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
This manages to be a beautifully written novel that's also a very fast read. I enjoyed devouring the story of twenty-something Stella and her alcoholic aunt Tilly. The narrative switches between both characters, and I loved each narrator's distinct voice. I also really liked the various settings: New York City, Connecticut, Arizona, San Francisco. So many lovely and rich and true details.

This is a dark tale about self-destruction and the limits of intimacy. There's a lot of good and sickening w
...more
Joanne
Feb 02, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
RH Walters
Oct 06, 2014 marked it as sampled
Much tender flesh is abused in this novel -- through aging, alcoholism, eating disorders, sex with unlikable people, everyday violence -- and it eventually became too painful for me to continue.
Sasha Martinez
Sep 30, 2011 added it
Shelves: 2010
[1] It begins slowly. It takes its time. Reading the blurb, all giddy, it’s like you submerge yourself in a tubful of water, and, extending the metaphor, the actual exposition is when you surface, all slow-mo. That’s how reading this novel is like. Is that a bad thing? No. Why? Let me explain: Jamison allows the Rudolph family to solidify before our eyes. By not immediately plunging us into the drama of that “fragile triangle,” the actual family dynamics—before meeting Tilly, how the family had ...more
Alayne Bushey
May 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Nora
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I was completely thrilled, altered and overtaken by The Gin Closet, which I had the great luck of reviewing this past January. I can’t voice enough excited praise in favor of this novel. Jamison’s prose is attuned to the cadence of poetry, while driven by an energetic narrative impulse.

The novel is split between the first-person perspectives of Stella, “so greedy for everyone else’s” life, and her estranged aunt Tilly, a severe alcoholic and former prostitute in a trailer park in stark isolatio
...more
Tabitha Andries
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: niet-uitgelezen
Quite a task to read this book. So I only read it half and then gave up. It was pretty depressing, looks like the characters are only experiencing misery and adversity in their lives (or believe they do), which is pretty unlikely.
It is not completely bad, but a pinch of humor had made it a more pleasant reading experience.
It's also possible that it's just not the right book for me at the moment.
Suzanne
Dec 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
I could not wait to be done with this book and kept hoping something interesting or unexpected would happen. The author writes details and descriptions seemingly because she learned that in a writing workshop somewhere. They are meaningless and choppy resulting in flat characters plotted out on a predictable story line. I would not recommend this book.
Maureen
Jun 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
This debut was a melodramatic piling on of every disfunction the author could conjure. Additionally, the characters were not simply unlikeable but also unbelievable and underdeveloped.
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Sep 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2010
Stella works as an assistant to a famous - and bitchy - writer; is having an affair with a married man, Louis; and takes care of her ailing grandmother, Lucy, whose decline in utter frailty shocks her. When her grandmother starts talking for the first time about a second daughter, Matilda, and vaguely hints at some tragedy or scandal, Stella is curious. But when Lucy dies and Stella finds out the family intends nothing more than to send Matilda - Tilly - a note from the lawyer, Stella decides to ...more
Chris Young
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Leslie Jamison has a sharp and intense writing style that is enormously entertaining to read. This was her first book published back in 2010 when she was 26. While I thoroughly enjoyed this story, it becomes obvious that much of the grittiness in this book is drawn from personal reflection and experience, which is depressing, for this story is anything but uplifting.

While I highly recommend, I still believe that her latest book “The Recovering” remains her best work yet....
Jennifer
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-books, arc, owned
I finished this novel two days ago and it has been in my mind ever since. A friend inquired as to whether the book was good - it is; very, very good - but I feel as though there are not sufficient words to express, in a review, my thoughts about the story or the writer. I need to invent new words to do this novel justice. The book is urgent and raw, and without requesting the readers sympathy, it demands of the reader to be a sentient human being. That Jamison, in this, her first novel, can crea ...more
Gail
Aug 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a very grim first novel, and in general, a well-done one. It was obvious from the first sentence that this book was likely to take me on a bleak ride, and at first, I wasn't sure I wanted to get on. I credit Jamison's writing with drawing me in quickly, and then I stayed with it, however unpleasant it got. I enjoyed the revolving POV structure of the book, and I thought the characters were interesting and engaging. At times, Jamison's language can become distracting (her use of similes c ...more
Lauren orso
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2015
this really struck a chord. i stayed up all night to finish it and cried myself to sleep. jamison is as stunning a novelist as in her nonfiction, and i'm sad she doesn't have more for me to read right now.

the changes in perspective between tilly and stella were also so good--it was interesting to see how they each felt about the same things, how important they were, how sad it made them.
Anna
Mar 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Rather unique literary chick lit that delves into families & flawed female psyches that deserves appreciation, but...ugh, what a downer.
Kristin
Mar 07, 2010 rated it did not like it
The drama. Oh the drama.
Teagan Stewart
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Angie
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked the different perspectives of the same events from the character’s eyes. The ending was not well written. It was inconsistent with the character and story

Favorite passages:

You make what happens next

My mother knew that money didn’t come from nowhere. Money only showed up, she said, from someone

eating myself sick between the outsize dresses of another wom-an’s brokedown dreams.

There was an emptiness that I filled with other people’s secrets.

this was what the sedative had done. It had not
...more
Lindaanne
I had mixed feelings about "The Gin Closet." On the plus side of the equation, Ms. Jamison's portrayal of a woman's struggle with, and ultimate surrender to alcoholism was raw and unflinching. This author has some serious writing chops, if only she would get out of her own way. "The Gin Closet" was often overwrought, overly descriptive and not emotionally true. And the privileged Ms. Jamison did not hide her contempt for the "white trash" character Tilly and others like her. The young character ...more
Alex
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
There was something about this book which was just beautifully written. It's maybe not satisfying as such... so many loose ends, so many unsolved issues... a family still broken internally from the start and til the end... but that quiet sadness made the book powerful. Tilly was destined to be a tragic figure from the start of her own dialog... this would never have been a real reunion. Stella, for her part, gets lost in her dream of fixing, finds herself literally falling in love with her new f ...more
Rod
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dark journey. Not gratuitously hopeless or shocking, but an attempt to describe the way humans try (and often fail) to connect, and the many ways people try to hide out, numb themselves, and ease the hurt by hurting themselves further. Captured the allure and pain of addiction. The kind of writing that had me highlighting many passages. A couple random examples:
I could only feel another's pain as something hurting in myself. For some people that's empathy, but for me it felt like theft.
I vague
...more
Noreen Anastasia
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wrenching and beautifully-written.

No happy endings (or beginnings or middles) in this stark look of an alcoholic woman and her reunion with her workaholic son and her lost-in-life niece. Despite that somewhat brutal interpretation, this novel pulled no punches in describing any regular family: a family who didn't benefit from a sudden windfall or change of heart along the while. I think Stella, Tilly, and Abe are true characters who were never quite able to become the people they always thought
...more
Brandy
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A family drama-with-a-capital-D

Compelling, complex, depressing but exhilarating... I loved this book. Leslie Jamison writes poetically without being trite. This is a family drama with a capital D and there is no shying away from the actual darkness and isolation caused by addition and inherited trauma.
Lisa Norris
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tough read

When I started this book I was kind of horrified of the damage each of the characters had. But then I couldn’t stop reading it. I’m not sure of the author’s background but clearly she has experience with alcoholism. Very scary.
Adele
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
It's interesting to see the seeds of many of the beautiful reflections on empathy that Jamison later wrote about in The Empathy Exams here. (i.e., "I could only feel another person's pain as something hurting in myself. For some people that's empathy, but for me it felt like theft.")
Elaine
Oct 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
I did not care for this book. It was depressing with a capital D.
Also the prose was overwrought like the author was trying so hard to write in an artistic style.
One particularly offensive passage talks of eating bagels and lox and she describes the lox as salmon sleeves?
I don't get that, they are not sleeves, sleeves are tubes.
The ending is not satisfying, just depressing,
I can't recommend this- pass it by, gentle reader, leave it in the closet.
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“She was scared about leaving everything, and I got that, but I also knew you couldn't start living in the new place until you said fuck-all to the old.” 43 likes
“I loved the full heat of being drunk, like I was made of melting chocolate and spreading in all directions.” 10 likes
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