January 21, 2013

Blame No One. Forgive Everyone.

I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Event - the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don't by Jennifer Gilbert

Release Date: May 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins | Harper
Pages: 224 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
When Jennifer Gilbert was just a year out of college, a twenty-two-year-old fresh-faced young woman looking forward to a bright future, someone tried to cut her life short in the most violent way. But she survived, and not wanting this traumatic event to define her life, she buried it deep within and never spoke of it again.

She bravely launched a fabulous career in New York as an event planner, designing lavish parties and fairy-tale weddings. Determined to help others celebrate and enjoy life's greatest moments, she was convinced she'd never again feel joy herself. Yet it was these weddings, anniversaries, and holiday parties, showered with all her love and attention through those silent, scary years, that slowly brought her back to life.

Thoughts on I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag
Do you ever read a book that just brings to life some of your worst fears? This memoir was one of the hardest things I've ever read because it was so raw and scary. It was like a horror move come to life.

Jennifer Gilbert was twenty-two, living in New York and excited about her future. Then, she's attached outside her friend's apartment. She was a random victim, and it was the most gruesome kind of attack - she was stabbed over thirty times with a screwdriver. In the wake of the attack, Gilbert must face both the severe physical and mental trauma.

She had to deal with the knowledge that she was randomly chosen, that her attacker knew he didn't succeed in killing her, that her friend didn't try to help her and the way her family reacted once she moved home. I felt sick while reading it all.

But the hardest thing to read was the way Gilbert tried to move forward. She throws herself into party planning, and tries to control her body (with food and exercise) in order to cope with what's happened to her. She's straightforward as she tells her story, and I could not book the book down while I was reading this section. I thought it was incredibly brave of her to tell her story in such a public way.

In fact, there were numerous people in her life who had no idea what she's gone through. She buried everything and tried to be the opposite of a "victim." There are some powerful moments in the book as she talks about telling her story for the first time.

While it's easy to look on from the outside and think about what you'd do in a similar situation, I think you never really know until it's happened. I found Gilbert's journey compelling and touching. What stood out to me most was Gilbert's attitude - the way she didn't allow herself to be defined by her tragedy. It also was such an incredible reminder that how someone looks on the outside (having it all together, for example) isn't always a true reflection of how they feel inside. Many saw Gilbert as in-control, cold and demanding... but inside she was still hurting, broken and scarred.

And I loved her stories about learning that everyone needs to be thanked. As the boss of a very successful event planning company, she realized that there was a dynamic shift in her company culture when she learned this important lesson. I loved that chapter!

As is the case with many memoirs I've read, Gilbert wasn't always likeable. She's incredibly wealthy and lives in a complete different world from the one I'll ever find myself in. And yet, doesn't that make for a good memoir in some way? I love the idea that someone hasn't glossed themselves over, tried to improve upon their flaws, and has been brutally honest in telling their story.

Beyond just the details of her attack and how she coped immediately following, you learn about the creation of her business and rise to success. You get to follow her as she tries to open herself up to relationships and eventually falls in love. I didn't 100% connect with the sections on her business, but  still enjoyed this book as a whole.

Reading I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag was like sitting down to coffee with someone and have them tell you their life story. If you like memoirs or stories of overcoming adversity (or even are just interested event planning), this is definitely a book I'd recommend. I didn't wholeheartedly love it, but it taught me some valuable lessons that I hope I don't soon forget.

So Quotable
"If you spend your time measuring your reality against your fantasy, you're inevitable going to lose the joy of just being in that moment. This holds true for events, relationships, business, and life."

"Blame no one. Forgive everyone. Thank someone."

10 comments:

  1. O__o at horror film come to life, I would be very afraid too! it sounds like a pretty intense book but I'm glad she overcame the obstacles. I can't imagine what I would do if something like that happened to me.

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    1. I know! I spent the whole time just wondering what I'd do if something like this happened to me. She really accomplishes some incredible things, and I loved how she didn't let him "win" by living the rest of her life afraid to do anything. It was a really fascinating read!

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  2. The attack was incredibly difficult to read, as were other parts, but as you said, this is just so readable. It was such a good read, and I was mightily impressed with Gilbert. I cannot imagine enduring something like this.

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    1. I can't imagine either! And yes, it was very readable. I read it SO quickly because I was really caught up in her story and thought she did a great job with the book. I also really admired what she did with her life, which made it that much more of an interesting read.

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  3. Oh wow, I love how Gilbert learns and incorporates that everyone needs to be thanked? That's so huge. And so true! I can imagine that there was indeed a huge shift in her company and that perhaps people may have loved working there as a result of this shift. This sounds like a hard read, but very rewarding. I'm not sure that it would be one that I would ever really pull off of the shelf for myself - it probably wouldn't catch my eye (cover snob here) but what a great, great book. A great story.

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    1. I'm a cover snob too and don't think this one does the book any favors, but it's definitely a good read. Very rewarding!

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  4. This actually sounds like something I'd enjoy! I'm always on the lookout for a good memoir/non-fic read, and this sounds like one that I'd definitely want to check out.

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    1. Yay for memoirs and non-fiction! I love when I find good ones - and you should certainly check this one out!

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  5. Oh wow, this memoir sounds intense, but REALLY good. It definitely sounds like one that I would be inclined to pick up and read, but I had never heard of it until just now. Thanks for the review, I'll be sure to keep my eye out for it.

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    1. So glad I was able to introduce you to it! I look forward to your thoughts if you happen to read it :)

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