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.
"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."