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Lies My Mother Never Told Me: A Memoir

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  470 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
In her riveting memoir Lies My Mother Never Told Me, Kaylie Jones—the daughter of author James Jones (From Here to Eternity) and an acclaimed author in her own right (A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries; Celeste Ascending; As Soon As It Rains)—tells the poignant story of her relationship with her famous father and her alcoholic mother, and of her own struggles with the diseas ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published August 17th 2010 by Harper Perennial (first published August 18th 2009)
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Will Byrnes
May 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
Kaylie Jones has written a crying-from-laughter, weeping-from-sadness, can’t-put-it-down, through-a shot-glass-darkly memoir about growing up the child of literary giant James Jones. Her father’s WW II classics brought in enough income to allow the family a life of physical comfort. But alcoholism is quite resistant to a greenback cure, and both of Kaylie’s parents were afflicted, a legacy she inherited. While dad’s contribution to the world can be found in libraries across the planet, mother Gl ...more
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Only one word was whispered in our house, as if it were the worst insult in the entire world you could call somebody -- alcoholic."

This is an incredible memoir of both addiction and the literati. Kaylie Jones was the child of two heavy drinkers: her father was the writer James Jones, author of "From Here to Eternity" and "The Thin Red Line," and her mother, Gloria, was a renowned socialite. Kaylie's childhood was spent in Paris, and her parents' weekly parties were attended by scores of writers
Sep 02, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Yawn. Another dull memoir with an interesting title.

Author is an author. Author had famous author parent and alcoholic parent. Author hates her mommy. Author stops drinking and becomes a blackbelt. Reader doesn't care.
Lydia Presley
Memoirs seem to be hit and miss for me this year. When offered the opportunity to read Lies My Mother Never Told Me I jumped on it because, honestly, the title is great and it looked interesting. My mistake was not looking to see who it was about.

Normally this wouldn't be a big deal. Most memoirs I read are about people I've never been "introduced" to. That's the whole point of a memoir, right? Getting to know someone. It was different in this book though. Because Kaylie Jones is the daughter of
Apr 25, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A good read in a weird, twisted way. I ended up rooting for the author's alcoholic "monster" of a mother, who was way more intriguing and funny than her self-righteous pill of a daughter. The daughter who, by the way, accepted lots of money from her awful mom, had no compunction about living (as an adult) in mom's houses and apartments, and who left her own tiny daughter with her mom whenever she needed a babysitter (and who snatched her away only when her daughter started getting "fat" when gra ...more
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Book Overview

To say Kaylie Jones grew up in an interesting household is an understatement. Her father was James Jones—the acclaimed novelist renowned for his WWII books, including From Here To Eternity and The Thin Red Line (both made into movies). Her mother Gloria was a beauty (she was Marilyn Monroe's stand-in for a movie once) and a quick-witted storyteller who was both brainy and bawdy. (Some of her mother's best stories are interspersed throughout the book and make for some very interestin
Sara Strand
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The problem is that obviously you can't help someone who doesn't recognize they have a problem and others around them think there isn't a problem. It was until Kaylie realized her own drinking is out of hand and she admits she is an alcoholic that she recognizes her mothers problem. Kaylie really struggles with the criticism she gets from her mom and she is really stifled in her own life because she dreads what she's going to get from her mom because of it.

My favorite passage of the whole book
Luciana Herman
Feb 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those books that I couldn't put down and not just because it's a memoir. The book does start out slowly as Jones excavates her past and remembers her father, James Jones. Once she starts getting into her battle with alcoholism and her relationship with her mother, the memoir begins to shine. My favorite chapter was the one about hope, because it's hard to believe that Jones could ever pull herself together enough to not only survive, but to come out her ordeals an enlightened, po ...more
Timothy Bazzett
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first exposure to Kaylie Jones came years ago with her very autobiographical novel, A SOLDIER'S DAUGHTER NEVER CRIES, which I liked very much. And which was made into quite a successful Hollywood film. As the daughter of writer James Jones (whose first novel, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, firmly established him in the early 1950s as an important writer of his generation), Kaylie Jones enjoyed a rather privileged childhood in the rarefied international literary community of Paris in the 1960s. Her me ...more
Mardel Fehrenbach
Oct 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kaylie Jones memoir, Lies my Mother Never told Me left me stunned.

In fact, it took me a little while to warm up to the book and at one point I was wondering why I was reading as the early sections seemed to be in danger of becoming just another “child of celebrity” writing about the dark underbelly of life with famous drunks. It was not that it was badly written; Jones’ direct style and sometimes shockingly spare prose serves the material well. The book is often moving and is filled with moment
Joanne  Clarke Gunter
Why do I keep on reading these memoirs written by the not so famous offspring of famous writers when most are basically the same story? Story line: famous father writer (in this case James Jones) drinks excessively as does the wife/mother causing many family "incidents" making for good famous father writer memoir material; famous father writer spends hours and hours struggling to come up with the next great novel but often fails; famous father writer has many famous writer friends and spends a l ...more
Jun 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is divided into thirds. The first third I'd definitely give 4 stars. Kaylie Jones starts each chapter with a story that her mother used to tell, and then writes beautifully of her father, the author James Jones (From Here to Eternity), and her mother and the memories of her life. She's a gifted writer and I loved gaining insight into their lives in Paris and the US.

The next 2/3 of the book I'd recommend to someone dealing with an alcoholic parent perhaps. It was a sad story of her rel
Jul 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Kaylie Jones's chapter, City of Lights, an excerpt of her memoir published in Epiphany, was named a notable essay in the Best American Essays 2010. It is a powerful, moving, and dryly funny story about coming of age in Paris with a knockout mother and a famous father, James Jones, author of the Thin Red Line and National Book Award-winner From Here to Eternity. It is a touching memoir that Vogue named as one of the seasons best in the fall of 2009. One of the most poignant scenes is when the aut ...more
Apr 30, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't actually quite finish this book, but I was pretty sick of the characters. Okay, so they all like to drink. Yada, yada, yada... she doesn't drink anymore, but mommy still does.
Sep 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best memoir I've read since THE GLASS CASTLE.
May 27, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
AWFUL. Tone deaf and narcissistic and shallow. Blecch. And the title makes no sense whatsoever (in relation to the book, the mother, the daughter, and their relationship).
Aly Cavalier
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Witty, elegantly written, and totally relatable. I had no prior knowledge of Kaylie and only superficial familiarity with her father, but by the end of the book, I felt like I personally knew them. I cheered during her triumphs and grieved through her loss. Excellent book.
Sep 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
From my book review blog Rundpinne.

3.5 stars

"Witty, heart wrenching and redemptive, Lies My Mother Never Told Me is a straightforward, raw and emotional look into the life of Kaylie Jones and her lifelong process of healing and coming into her own. Jones grew up surrounded by talented, well-educated and famous people, her father James Jones was among them, whose novels are known worldwide. Kaylie writes about her life from her childhood in Paris to present day with a dry wit and charm. At time
Jul 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Personally I found the first third of this memoir to be slow, with moments of somewhat interesting, if generally emotionally vapid memories. But I think now that the first third is acceptable to set up the emotional knockout that constitutes the second two thirds. The latter really struck a chord with me. I cried more than a few times throughout my day-long reading, and no, I did not grow up around alcoholics. I think we all have our scars, though, many of which have been acquired through childh ...more
Jul 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never felt the need to read a memoir, but there was something about the girl on the cover with her adorable wool coat....

Kaylie Jones is the daughter of WWII author James Jones. Her childhood was a life of watching beautiful people like Lauren Bacall, Willie Morris and Norman Mailer sip cocktails at her parents parties until the sun came up. Her memoir doesn't search for answers, she doesn't blame her parents or resent them while telling her own story either. It is simply a beautifully wr
Jane Hammons
This is a fascinating book about Kaylie Jones's struggle with alcoholism and with two alcoholic parents: one James Jones, a famous writer; the other, Gloria Jones--beautiful, vivacious and cruel. One of the things I appreciate about this book is the clarity and honesty of Jones's voice. Given that she grew up in Paris and New York and was often in the company of William Styron, Norman Mailer, and other actors and celebrities, it must have been tempting to make that the substance of the book. But ...more
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wilkes-writers
Kaylie's memoir is about the effects of her childhood amongst literary giants (her father James Jones and his friends & contemporaries) and the perpetual spiraling control her mother's influence had on her during her entire life. The tale traces the way alcohol colors most memories, either through Kaylie's own abuse and eventual recovery or through her mother's constant losing battle. She weaves the story of her life in a way that makes it easy to read and feel along with her, especially onc ...more
Cindy Cunningham
So far I am interested. I have read the part about her father with a fair amount of interest (her father was famous author), but I am ready to get more details on HER life....

Ok...this book was written by a friend of one of my good friends....but I gotta say, I would NOT call it a memoir. Memoir brings with it a literary feel; a book that is well written and meaningful. This book is highly repetitive and filled with gratuitous name dropping...I pushed through to the end just to see if it improve
Jan 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This is a memoir of a woman who finally realizes she is an alcoholic and that alcohol and emotional abuse are central features of the family she grew up in. At least half the book is devoted to the journey of complete recovery--beautifully describing finding God and developing enough self confidence (partly through tae kwon do) to be at peace. One thing I really loved was finding out how many people contributed to the author's well being--how powerful we can be when extending a loving, honest fr ...more
Dale Stonehouse
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The one thing that prevented this from 5 stars is my own personal dislike of overly codependent behavior. The only thing I knew about the Jones family was that her father James wrote From Here to Eternity and Some Came Running, both of which were made into interesting Hollywood productions. What I learned is that James Jones wrote these based on his own experience, that he hated war and killing with great passion, and before there was a diagnostic basis, he suffered from PTSD. He died of heart d ...more
Jan 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wasn't sure why I picked up this book but I did and I don't regret. It was not an uplifting book but I found I kept wanting to read about this horrible mother/daughter relationship. Maybe because it left me feeling so glad I am not an alcoholic and was not raised by any! I did wish Kaylie would have grown some balls earlier on but what can I say? And it did peak my interest about alcoholics and the cycle it brings out in a family- often a generational cycle. If you liked The Glass Castle, you mi ...more
May 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I probably shouldn't have read this book about an alcoholic and emotional abusive mother during Mother's Day week. Kaylie Jones is the daughter of James Jones, the author of From Here to Eternity, who dies when she is 16 years old. It turns out that in their terrible relationship, one of the few things that Kaylie has in common with her mother, Gloria, is alcoholism. Kaylie comes to term with her alcoholism and wants her mother to stop drinking. Doesn't work. I think that this memoir would be mo ...more
May 14, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This memoir is about twice as long as it should be. Jones gets monotonous at times, refusing to set boundaries with her alcoholic, verbally abusive mother, even at the expense of her own daughter. From personal experience, I found this tedious and maddening. I enjoyed the literary references, but Jones definitely idealized her father, every bit as much an alcoholic as her mother. Granted, her mother was viciously cruel, and her father was not.
Kaylie Jones is James Jones' daughter (he wrote From Here to Eternity among other WW2 books). Her early life was populated by all the great writers of the time (Mailer, Vonnegut, Styron, etc.). Her mother, however, was an incredibly cruel alcoholic. The first half of the book is a fascinating account of her high-living parents; the second half a less compelling account of her own alcoholism and her mother's descent into alcoholic insanity.
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gut wrenching. A child of privilege raised with every trapping of wealth by a loving, troubled father and an abusive alcoholic mother. The cruelty she endures at her mother's tongue is unspeakable. The daughter repeats the sins of the mother and becomes an abuser herself. A sad, crushing portrait of life with a chronic alcoholic who seemingly had everything but threw it all away and nearly destroyed her daughter.
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Kaylie was born in Paris, France and attended French schools until she returned with her family to the U.S. in 1974. Her father was the novelist James Jones.

Kaylie began to study Russian as her third language at age 8, and continued to study the language and literature through her four undergraduate years at Wesleyan University and her two years at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where s
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“Medical research has revealed that in about one-tenth of the population, the liver processes alcohol differently, releasing a chemical messenger that creates the craving for another drink; once that second drink is taken, the desire is doubled. But the real problem of the alcoholic is actually centered in the mind, because we can’t remember why it was such a bad idea to pick up that first drink. Once we start, we can’t stop; and when we stop, we can’t remember why we shouldn’t start again. It is a form of mental illness, like a manic-depressive who, after being stabilized on medication for a while, suddenly decides she is fine and no longer needs her pills.” 7 likes
“You’re in the hallway and it feels scary right now but just keep going. There’s another door, and you’re going to find it. And then the whole world is going to open up to you.” 5 likes
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