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Review: ‘I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag’ by Jennifer Gilbert

Review: ‘I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag’ by Jennifer Gilbert post image

Title: I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Events — the Ones you Plan and the Ones You Don’t
Author: Jennifer Gilbert
Genre: Memoir
Year: 2012
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Acquired: From the publisher as part of a TLC Book Tour
Rating: ★★★½☆

Review: Jenny Gilbert was a vivacious, outgoing, unflappable twenty-something, just back from a trip to Europe, when a violent attack split her life into Before and After. Outside a friend’s apartment, Jenny was assaulted by a total stranger intent on killing her. Despite being stabbed more than 30 times, Gilbert survived the attack. But from that moment forward, she’d never be “Jenny” again. After the attack, she was “Jennifer,” a woman determined to rebuild and reclaim her fabulous New York life:

The result of my rebuilding was an assemblage of contradictions, all hidden beneath a shiny skin. I was a fearless fearful person. I was isolated but afraid to be alone. I was terrified of thins that most people take for granted — especially sleep — but the stuff that others approach with trepidation didn’t even faze me. New career choices, job interviews, selling, cold-calling — that was nothing to me. I knew what it was like to almost lose everything, so the day-to-day things that cause the average person anxiety? Please. What’s the worst that could happen to me…

Jennifer got a job working for a small event planning coming, cold-calling businesses and building up a portfolio of wealthy corporate clients. Eventually, she quite the firm to start her own company, finding solace and excitement in being the kind of person that could fix any problem and living vicariously for the joyful days of the people she was helping. I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag is Gilbert’s memoir of surviving, rebuilding and learning that life is often out of our control.

I had this book on my mental “You Might Like This” list ever since I read a lovely review on Meg’s blog last November. When the ladies at TLC Book Tours pitched it to me, I thought it sounded like a nice change of pace from what I have been reading — an inspirational story about a woman taking control of her life and making it into what she wants. I like those kinds of stories once in awhile.

Like Meg, I went into the book not knowing much about The Attack that throws Gilbert’s life into such disarray. I knew something bad happened to her, but I had no idea how visceral and violent it would be. The way she describes it is very clinical and matter-of-fact, which makes it almost more unsettling to read. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it again because it really did shock me.

As much as the attack takes center stage at the beginning of this book, I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag isn’t about that single event. It’s about how Gilbert chose to respond to it, how she decided to take control of what her life would be and make it what she wanted. She doesn’t always do this successfully or in the most healthy way; for years, she refused to tell people about what happened to her or wear a swimsuit on a beach because she was afraid people would see her scars. She struggled with an eating disorder, looking at controlling food as a way of controlling her chaotic inner life. She had a string of less-than-healthy relationships until finding  her best friend and husband.

But through all of this, Gilbert is a woman I can and do admire. She never looks for sympathy because of her attack. She takes care of herself, grows her business, and continues to learn and adapt and evolve to become a better, healthier person. I just really liked her and reading about her life, despite the fact that her ultra-rich, New York City story is so entirely different from me. I enjoyed reading this book, and I think other memoir readers would enjoy it too.

tlc logoOther Tour Stops: Book Hooked Blog |  A Patchwork of Books | Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews | From LA. to LA | A Musing Reviews | Tiffany’s Bookshelf |  The Well-Read Redhead | guiltless reading | Patricia’s Wisdom

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Andi @ Estella's Revenge May 15, 2013, 8:13 am

    This sounds like something I’d like to read, and I never would’ve guessed that from the title. Thanks for shining a light on this one for me, Kim!

    • Kim May 15, 2013, 9:06 pm

      I think if I’d known a little more about the author, I may not have picked this one up either — I didn’t realize her event company was so swanky, for example. But I’m glad I didn’t know some of the things I learned since I enjoyed the book.

  • Jennifer May 15, 2013, 8:17 am

    Yup, another book for the wish list 🙂 Thanks!

  • Shannon @ River City Reading May 15, 2013, 8:41 pm

    It’s strange how sometimes having completely shocking situations described without emotion can make them sound even worse. It sounds like this would be a good one to keep on the bookshelves.

    • Kim May 15, 2013, 9:06 pm

      Yes, I always find descriptions that are matter-of-fact to be the most chilling — must be the journalist in me.

  • Charlie May 16, 2013, 1:17 pm

    I totally forgot about this one, though I think I read Meg’s review, too. The title is quite shocking, on one hand it sounds unrelated, another alarming in a way because it’s hard-hitting, almost. I like that she’s covered both the good and bad stages to the extent it sounds she has.

  • Heather J @ TLC Book Tours May 17, 2013, 4:41 pm

    I’m glad to see that you enjoyed this one even though you and the author have so very little in common. Sounds like it is a wonderfully inspiring book.

    Thanks for being on the tour Kim!