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Fiction Ruined My Family: A Memoir

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Jeanne Darst shares with humor her memoirs, stories about growing up around writers and journalists, and figuring out how to make her own way.


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Jeanne Darst shares with humor her memoirs, stories about growing up around writers and journalists, and figuring out how to make her own way.

30 review for Fiction Ruined My Family: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Raquel

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. There were some good lines and occasional entertaining anecdotes, but overall: Meh. Her family is wacky and at first I was digging it. Then Jeanne just became awful and I stopped giving a shit about her. I also didn't think her awfulness was entirely the fault of her wacky upbringing. Plenty of people have had wacky, dysfunctional families and have been just fine--in fact, very much unawful. She fixated on stories that were truly unimportant to the plot--I like scatalogical anecdotes as much as There were some good lines and occasional entertaining anecdotes, but overall: Meh. Her family is wacky and at first I was digging it. Then Jeanne just became awful and I stopped giving a shit about her. I also didn't think her awfulness was entirely the fault of her wacky upbringing. Plenty of people have had wacky, dysfunctional families and have been just fine--in fact, very much unawful. She fixated on stories that were truly unimportant to the plot--I like scatalogical anecdotes as much as the next gal, but I really did NOT need a chapter-long tale about dealing with pubic lice, and not just for the gross-out factor, but moreso because it really had nothing to do with anything--and then spends just a few pages at the end of said crab louse chapter saying, by the way, my mom was unconscious and bleeding on the floor, thank god I found her in time or she would have died. Ditto the shitting in a bag story. Yes, she shits in a bag. And goes on about it for pages. She does not dive deep into overcoming her alcoholism. Isn't it a horrendous, painful process to slog out and recover from an addiction? Jeanne glosses over it. "I stopped drinking and thought I was sort of lame. I wish my mom had stopped too." That's what it distills down to. She keeps talking about wanting to write, but doesn't delve into that very deeply either. Instead she talks about her failure to hold a steady job ad nauseum by describing her outlandish behavior at the jobs she does have (for precious little time). Why don't you talk about writing? Then she skates over the fact that she gets pregnant by a boyfriend she hasn't had very long, marries him, whines about living in LA while penning her memoir, and seems pissed to no end that her father is obsessed with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Apparently an editor or early reader said, "Tie in the Fitzgeralds' fucked up marriage to your own parents' relationship" and she did her best. Then she decides her own marriage sucks and is over. She barely talks about what it is like to be a mother. I've heard that having a kid is kind of a big deal. Then she ends the book by talking about how working from home means you have the luxury of cooking your own lunch, which is a joy most people will never know, as they are stuck working in offices. I agree with that part: having lunch at home is awesome. But I don't ever want to read anything else she wrote, including the one-woman play she talks about repeatedly in the book that sounded absurd. There was no redeeming quality to this book--rather it felt like a bunch of anecdotes loosely strung together. I didn't learn anything, I wasn't even clear on how the author grew and changed, I was frustrated that the narrative was so choppy. The title is fabulous. The rest has its moments few and far between but doesn't hold up.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I hate to do this. I really do. Especially considering that by giving this book a rating, I feel as if I am rating the person, even though that is not what I am doing. I have to give this memoir a two star review. What attracted me to the memoir at first was the description. Who wouldn't enjoy a deeply witty book about drinking, demons, family dysfunction and the all encompassing writing bug? However, once I started to read the book, I saw that this book wasn't deeply witty, it was deeply sad. The I hate to do this. I really do. Especially considering that by giving this book a rating, I feel as if I am rating the person, even though that is not what I am doing. I have to give this memoir a two star review. What attracted me to the memoir at first was the description. Who wouldn't enjoy a deeply witty book about drinking, demons, family dysfunction and the all encompassing writing bug? However, once I started to read the book, I saw that this book wasn't deeply witty, it was deeply sad. The first third and last third of the book were actually quite good. I found myself really understanding Darst and her family life, if only for a moment. The middle, unfortunately, left a very sour taste in my mouth. The Jeanne Darst we see in this portion is not, in my opinion, a person you can easily like. Granted, the middle of the memoir is when she is in her deepest throes of alcoholism, but some of the things she writes leaves me cold. While at times you can tell that the commentary is meant to be from "past Jeanne", sometimes the horrible things she says seem to come from "modern Jeanne", and it would make me incredibly disgusted. I mean, it is one thing for "past Jeanne" to act the part of the self-centered alcoholic when her therapist begins to cry at a session because she has Lyme disease and the hospital is giving her the run around about a procedure. It is completely another when a grown, sober woman infers that because of this that the therapist was broken and shouldn't be doing her job. It was heartless. Darst also didn't seem to have a filter for things that might have been better left unsaid. I know that she probably wanted to capture the full "truth" of certain instances and really convey how messed up her family was, but for God sakes, did she have to take all the dignity away from her father when she talked about seeing his genitals as he is writhing in a hospital bed? I will say that I think that Jeanne Darst is a very capable writer. In fact, there was one pun she made that stuck with me and will probably continue to stand out in the future. When she said that one of her college co-workers had a "latemotif" running throughout her life, I chuckled. As a writer and a musician, I really appreciated what she did with that phrase. It was quite clever! Darst has a great feel for language and THAT was what kept me reading. I wanted to see how she would phrase and describe things! My biggest issue is that Darst was mostly unlikeable in the heart of the memoir, which I am sure was due to being the self-centered alcoholic. However, when some of her lack of remorse for appalling situations seems to be coming from the modern Darst, it left me wondering if the jerky behavior was due to the alcohol or if it was just her. The reason I don't know if I buy that is because she does have so much clarity, understanding and kindness in the latter part of the book that I want to just chalk it up to poor editing or word choice. Perhaps it is something she may want to revisit in the future if that is not the way she wanted to be portrayed in her own writing. The writing and the book are actually quite good, and if you are into authors like David Sedaris, then this might be right up your alley (I'm not a Sedaris fan, so that could be why this type of humor doesn't resonate with me). For me, it just wasn't the deeply witty book it was touted to be. I was more saddened and horrified by her life than laughing. I am glad that she is in a much better place with her life and wish her the best because after all she has been through, she DOES deserve to find that happiness and for those pieces to fall into place! What she struggled through and overcame is immeasurable, and for that I have to give her all the credit in the world. I think she is stronger than she thinks and more than she could ever imagine. You see glimmers of that person, and THAT is the Jeanne Darst that I find to be lovable and amazing. That is the Darst that I enjoyed reading about. It's just unfortunate that that side of her is the one least seen in her memoir.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dani Peloquin

    Let me just say it, I hate memoirs. I really truly do. I have read enough stories about how someone painted themselves green for a year and journaled about it, I have worked my way through stories about abusive families and drunken childhoods, I have found no interest in true tales of cooking one’s way through divorce. Overall, I am not the memoir type. It is for this reason that I have NO idea why I requested to read this book. When it arrived on my doorstep I took one look at it and thought “ Let me just say it, I hate memoirs. I really truly do. I have read enough stories about how someone painted themselves green for a year and journaled about it, I have worked my way through stories about abusive families and drunken childhoods, I have found no interest in true tales of cooking one’s way through divorce. Overall, I am not the memoir type. It is for this reason that I have NO idea why I requested to read this book. When it arrived on my doorstep I took one look at it and thought “damn. another whiny memoir about a sucky childhood”. But let me say this: I WAS SO WRONG! Sure Jeanne Darst had an alcoholic mother, a distant father, and distraught siblings but her spin on her personal history is perfection. There is no whining, no complaining, and some actual levity. I haven’t laughed this much since “Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea” (and we all know how much I loved that book). My only complaint is that no one told me this was funny, so I was the most shocked when I started hysterically laughing on the subway. All I could do was lift up the book to my fellow passengers as a gesture of apology and endorsement. Jeanne Darst is moved from her loving household with her parents, siblings, and grandmother in St. Louis, Missouri to the bustling city of New York. Everyone is unsure if this midwest family can make the transition to the city that never sleeps. Fotunately, or unfortunately, they fit right in. Darst’s father is a starving novelist who has never actually written a published book but has great ambitions and knows that his break is just around the corner. Darst’s mother is an alcoholic raised with an in-house horse trainer only to be shackled to four kids and a dreamer husband in her adulthood. To say that she is resentful is a grave understatement. Jeanne chronicles her father’s revolving door of jobs, her mother’s attempt at the workforce and the inevitable disintegration of their familial relationships. While the goal of most parents is to inspire their children to follow their dreams, Jeanne’s family history pushes her away from her ambitions of being a writer. In order to find herself, she must first follow in the footsteps of her parents and recover from their wrongdoings. I know this sounds heavy...and it is. BUT it is also hilarious! Darst has a fantastic wit, an excellent handle on sarcasm, and an eye for the ridiculous. She clearly loves her family but she sees its flaws and isn’t afraid to reveal them to the world. Additionally, she is open about herself and her character flaws. In this way, she reminds me a great deal of Chelsea Handler who is able to poke fun at the one she loves but also at herself. However, unlike Handler, Darst is introspective and understands the reasoning behind her actions. I want to give this five stars, but I felt that it did lag towards the end and regress into some navel-gazing. Still, I think just about everyone would benefit from reading this book! www.iamliteraryaddicted.blogspot.com

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Three stars because I loved about half of this book & hated the other half. Charming anecdotes about her childhood, interesting insights into sobriety, the shocking death of her mother - yes. Nonsense about the alleged hilarity of blackout drinking, Chelsea Handler-esque blather about giving her sister crabs - no.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    This memoir was truly funny at times, but overall I found myself just wishing that I could finish it so I could move on to another book that I could enjoy more. Perhaps my review is also tempered by the comparisons I kept making to this and Jenny Lawson's book "Let's Pretend That This Never Happened," which I liked much more.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Harvey

    Ultimately annoying. Started off well but became really really tiresome. Has been compared to Running With Scissors and The Glass Castle. Pales in comparison to both.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ciara

    once again, i wish goodreads gave us the option of half-stars. because i think this is on the cusp between three & four stars. it is extremely flawed, but also very entertaining. though i am of course biased because i enjoy memoirs. darst's memoir is admittedly pretty thin on material. she is the youngest daughter of a pair of st. louis alcoholics. her mother was a wealthy child equestrian who seemed to think the gravy train would never stop, even if she married a bumbling, alcoholic, once again, i wish goodreads gave us the option of half-stars. because i think this is on the cusp between three & four stars. it is extremely flawed, but also very entertaining. though i am of course biased because i enjoy memoirs. darst's memoir is admittedly pretty thin on material. she is the youngest daughter of a pair of st. louis alcoholics. her mother was a wealthy child equestrian who seemed to think the gravy train would never stop, even if she married a bumbling, alcoholic, peripatetic writer. when he could not keep her in the manner to which she had become accustomed, she turned to whiskey. he was descended from a long line of notable journalists & assumed that he would follow in their footsteps to write the great american novel. while he managed to sell a lot of stories to some very respectable markets, he never managed to publish a novel, & he spent his golden years laboriously obsessing over a biography of f. scott fitzgerald, which darst uses as a rather ham-fisted & funereal metaphor for her parents' relationship. darst herself grows up to be an alcoholic who can't hold down a job or a relationship, even while she imagines that she will somehow break through the hangover fog long enough to write an amazing play that will catapult her to financial stability & literary success. most of the book is a long series of non-sequitors that would be more at home in a book of humorous essays by david sedaris or sloane crosley (which is not to say that darst is as funny as those writers--though she probably could be, if she didn't feel the need to steep her writing in bathos to give it a literary patina). i felt like i was reading a series of stories that darst busts out at parties, rather than a memoir that was actually going somewhere. & a warning for anyone who doesn't enjoy bathroom humor: you'll probably just want to give this book a pass. things especially fell apart toward the end of the book, when darst's mother dies. shortly thereafter, darst gets pregnant with a man she's been dating for a few months. they get married & move to los angeles, where darst, who obviously considers herself a new york sophisticate, is lonely & ill at ease. she begins working on this memoir, & her husband clearly does not approve, thinking that she is behaving as obsessively as her father, & is likely to go as far, which is to say, nowhere. the relationship falls apart & darst moves back to new york. i got the impression that all of this was written more or less as it was happening & didn't benefit from the same level of reflection & revision as the rest of the book. i mean, when i was reading earlier parts of the book, i may have wondered why exactly darst felt the need to include thirty pages about this time she pooped into a bag because someone was in the bathroom, but at least the writing was engaging & well-paced (although darst needs to be arrested immediately for abuse & misuse of punctuation--it's as if she substituted half of her periods for commas, put this revised manuscript into a bag, & shook it up, so that her over-abundance of commas was scattered haphazardly throughout the text with no rhyme or reason). this last section was a tedious slog. it reminded me of watching the last film in the "lord of the rings" trilogy. just when you think it's over, there's another scene.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    One of the very best I've read this year. This gem easily trounces other author-is-crazy-but-funny-alcoholic memoirs. I laughed, I cried--I came close to doing both at the same time. Summary (from Goodreads): The youngest of four daughters in an old, celebrated St. Louis family of prominent journalists and politicians on one side, debutante balls and equestrian trophies on the other, Jeanne Darst grew up hearing stories of past grandeur. And as a young girl, the message she internalized was One of the very best I've read this year. This gem easily trounces other author-is-crazy-but-funny-alcoholic memoirs. I laughed, I cried--I came close to doing both at the same time. Summary (from Goodreads): The youngest of four daughters in an old, celebrated St. Louis family of prominent journalists and politicians on one side, debutante balls and equestrian trophies on the other, Jeanne Darst grew up hearing stories of past grandeur. And as a young girl, the message she internalized was clear: while things might be a bit tight for us right now, it's only temporary. Soon her father would sell the Great American Novel and reclaim the family's former glory. The family uproots and moves from St. Louis to New York. Jeanne's father writes one novel, and then another, which don't find publishers. This, combined with her mother's burgeoning alcoholism -- nightly booze- fueled weepathons reminiscing about her fancy childhood -- lead to financial disaster and divorce. And as Jeanne becomes an adult, she is horrified to discover that she is not only a drinker like her mother, but a writer like her father. At first, and for years, she embraces both - living in an apartment with no bathroom, stealing food from her babysitting gigs, and raising rent money by riding the subway topless, or performing her one woman show in her living room. Until gradually, she realizes that this life has not been thrust on her in some handing-down-of-the-writing-mantle-way. She has chosen it; and until she can stop putting drinking and writing ahead of everything else, it's a questionable choice. She writes, "For a long time I was worried about becoming my father. Then I was worried about becoming my mother. Now I was worried about becoming myself." Ultimately, Jeanne sets out to discover if a person can have the writing without the ruin, if it's possible to be both sober and creative, ambitious and happy, a professional author and a parent. Filled with brilliantly flawed, idiosyncratic characters and punctuated by Darst's irreverent eye for absurdity, Fiction Ruined My Family is a lovingly told, wickedly funny portrait of an unconventional life.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Funny, bittersweet memoir written by a woman who grew up with a failed writer father and a blueblood alcoholic mother. She really does a sendup of what it’s like to be the child of a writer and all the little “quirks” that entails. This, along with her parents’ privileged upbringings, makes it unlike other “we had it rough” memoirs. The author herself is both these things, a failed (at first) writer and an alcoholic, and I loved the point she made about how she was almost competing with her Funny, bittersweet memoir written by a woman who grew up with a failed writer father and a blueblood alcoholic mother. She really does a sendup of what it’s like to be the child of a writer and all the little “quirks” that entails. This, along with her parents’ privileged upbringings, makes it unlike other “we had it rough” memoirs. The author herself is both these things, a failed (at first) writer and an alcoholic, and I loved the point she made about how she was almost competing with her parents in these areas and felt like a failure in comparison. This, even though was competing to be a boozehound and a non-writing writer! It seems ridiculous but rang so true. I thought this was really, really poignant though perhaps not intentionally so. The writing is hysterical. I snorted out loud several times. The interactions with her sisters are hilarious and the author uses sublime descriptions to make a point. And by sublime I don’t mean long and meandering and beautiful but likening things to, for example, a dead falcon on the grandmother’s coffee table. She is honest and self-deprecating, though the pubic lice chapter was probably a bit overdone as well as the poop in a bag tale. All in, an excellent memoir. It’s not really dishy or grand or stunning. It’s like sitting down with your best friend and laughing at all her stories (and maybe even getting a little choked up at times). While it’s not necessarily life-changing you walk away feeling happy and full and glad you took the time to hang out.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Missy

    This memoir made me......sad. I went to school with these girls, one of them was in my class. It is funny, because looking back, I had Jeanne and her family pegged as the typical Bronxville NY family, well-to-do, without a care in the world. I had no idea what she and her siblings were dealing with. Just goes to show you that you may think someone else's life is all sunshine and rainbows....when in reality, it's not. I think Jeanne Darst is a brave soul for writing this memoir...it took a lot of This memoir made me......sad. I went to school with these girls, one of them was in my class. It is funny, because looking back, I had Jeanne and her family pegged as the typical Bronxville NY family, well-to-do, without a care in the world. I had no idea what she and her siblings were dealing with. Just goes to show you that you may think someone else's life is all sunshine and rainbows....when in reality, it's not. I think Jeanne Darst is a brave soul for writing this memoir...it took a lot of courage. She seems to be very well-adjusted to have had such a "different" upbringing. And, she is pretty damn funny!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matt Weber

    Fiction Ruined My Family is the best memoir I've read in years. I thoroughly enjoyed the quality of the writing and the stories. It is ridiculously witty, stark, and honest. So much so that some parts made me laugh until it hurt while other parts made me uncomfortable to have a glimpse into the author’s colorful and oftentimes riotous life. I can’t relate to the author’s family experiences, but the writing is so good that I could picture the stories perfectly. The author is able to move emotions Fiction Ruined My Family is the best memoir I've read in years. I thoroughly enjoyed the quality of the writing and the stories. It is ridiculously witty, stark, and honest. So much so that some parts made me laugh until it hurt while other parts made me uncomfortable to have a glimpse into the author’s colorful and oftentimes riotous life. I can’t relate to the author’s family experiences, but the writing is so good that I could picture the stories perfectly. The author is able to move emotions and feelings effortlessly from page to the reader in a very gifted way. Buy the book, and then buy several more for gifts for family and friends.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    It is a popular literary device these days to make light of your horrific childhood, blame everything on your parents, and then congratulate yourself for turning out ok (Jeannette Walls, Augusten Burroughs, etc.). Unfortunately, finding that kernel of redemption in this pile of crap is pretty near impossible.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tina Humphrey Boogren

    An AMAZING memoir. Some seriously stunning lines...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    The youngest of four daughters in an old, celebrated St. Louis family of prominent journalists and politicians on one side, debutante balls and equestrian trophies on the other, Jeanne Darst grew up hearing stories of past grandeur. Her upbringing could be described as a tad different, her father is a full time novelist who writes book after book, but has not published any and her mother is a depressive alcoholic. Darst is able to inject fierce wit and humor into a childhood that was pretty The youngest of four daughters in an old, celebrated St. Louis family of prominent journalists and politicians on one side, debutante balls and equestrian trophies on the other, Jeanne Darst grew up hearing stories of past grandeur. Her upbringing could be described as a tad different, her father is a full time novelist who writes book after book, but has not published any and her mother is a depressive alcoholic. Darst is able to inject fierce wit and humor into a childhood that was pretty heartbreaking and if it wasn't for this the book would have been a tough pill to swallow.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Farrell

    Good God, why 5 stars? Cause I really like it, and if you don't like that you can just wipe your A$$ with it. That is the type of irreverant prose that graces the pages of this book. Jeanne Darst is funny (to me but not to my wife, Amy). The best that I can describe her, Darst is like Erma Bombeck with a really foul mouth. Here is the summary. Jeanne is one of four daughters. Her Dad has spent his whole life trying to write the great american novel while effectively dodging any meaningful Good God, why 5 stars? Cause I really like it, and if you don't like that you can just wipe your A$$ with it. That is the type of irreverant prose that graces the pages of this book. Jeanne Darst is funny (to me but not to my wife, Amy). The best that I can describe her, Darst is like Erma Bombeck with a really foul mouth. Here is the summary. Jeanne is one of four daughters. Her Dad has spent his whole life trying to write the great american novel while effectively dodging any meaningful employment. A job would have hindered his writing. Her Mom is a debutante alcoholic. At one point, Jeanne suggested to her Father that maybe Mom is an alcoholic. Her Father very seriously said "Your Mother just thinks every evening is New Year's Eve." The home life was not very good for raising normal, well adjusted young women. This is the story of one of those women. She lays bare the years of her own tragedy in a very comic way. She also makes the decision to be sober at age 30 and, dog-gone-it, she even made that funny. Sure, it's not too hard to tell a funny story about getting into karate fights with three people twice your size while falling down drunk. But try to get a chuckle while describing sobriety. Tough job but she does it well. As I said, Amy did not like this book much and didn't get the humor, but this is my review. The life of Jeanne Darst and many of her family members, is a complete train wreck. She is telling this through the lens of sobriety and now motherhood. In trying to put the pieces of her life together, she is starting a brand new one from scratch.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    "My whole life had felt like a good story - something in which I participated in order to create something that could be used for conversation later." (p. 224) Black humor - bleak humor? - about a genteel family descending into poverty. Jeanne's father is a writer who can never quite finish a novel, as her mother gradually becomes an alcoholic fixated on her glory days as a debutante. Out of all of her siblings, Jeanne takes after both of her parents the most. Darst writes a lot about the "My whole life had felt like a good story - something in which I participated in order to create something that could be used for conversation later." (p. 224) Black humor - bleak humor? - about a genteel family descending into poverty. Jeanne's father is a writer who can never quite finish a novel, as her mother gradually becomes an alcoholic fixated on her glory days as a debutante. Out of all of her siblings, Jeanne takes after both of her parents the most. Darst writes a lot about the importance of language: "I was under the impression cliches could ruin you, ruin your life, your hopes and dreams, bring down your whole operation if you didn't watch it. They were gateway language, leading straight to a business major, a golfy marriage, needlepoint pillows that said things about your golf game, and a self-inflicted gunshot to the head that your family called a heart attack in your alma mater announcements. Character suicide. Language was important, sexy, fun, alive, extremely personal, it was like food, you wouldn't just pop anything into your mouth, why would you let anything pop out that hadn't been considered and prepared for someone to enjoy? To ignore language was akin to ignoring the very person you were speaking to, rude, uncaring, unfeeling, cold. It was a way to connect and also to woo, to charm, to manipulate, it was a tool for love, for survival. Your words were you. To ignore language was to ignore Dad. To love words was to love Dad." (p.76)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eris

    After blowing through this book quickly, I am surprised to see so many low ratings - different drums I suppose. This book does have the train wreck combination of dysfunctional family memoir, addiction memoir, and "finding myself" memoir all wrapped into one - but by the end you find a person who really does seem to figure out who they are and make peace with it all. There is very little pretty or uplifting, this isn't the great conquering all odds memoir that some folks may have wanted to see... After blowing through this book quickly, I am surprised to see so many low ratings - different drums I suppose. This book does have the train wreck combination of dysfunctional family memoir, addiction memoir, and "finding myself" memoir all wrapped into one - but by the end you find a person who really does seem to figure out who they are and make peace with it all. There is very little pretty or uplifting, this isn't the great conquering all odds memoir that some folks may have wanted to see... at the end, the author is doing much better than she ever has, and is writing not because she is the greatest or the most talented but because she has to. There is one redeeming aspect in this tale of many gutters - the author has put her child first... unlike her parents. She may not be perfect, she may not be a shimmering image of the champion clawing her way up from the bottom to get the gold, but she is the image of a person who is fulfilled, balanced, and ok with who she is... something many of us lack in this society of "are you good enough?" constant self-examination. I wouldn't compare this to Burroughs self-indulgent memoirs as some have done, his work puts him constantly in the victim seat. She is honest in her short-comings and owns the parts of herself that are of her own making.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Greta

    I can't believe I read the who-o-o-o-le thing. I kept wanting to quit but there was just enough to keep me going since the father of the author was a complete romantic bibliophile, living his life as if it were an extension of his favorite fiction. I have a soft spot for people like that since my own father had a similar bent. The difference: my father was gainfully employed as an English professor and wasn't an alcoholic. Through the author's eyes we witness the descent of both her parents, but I can't believe I read the who-o-o-o-le thing. I kept wanting to quit but there was just enough to keep me going since the father of the author was a complete romantic bibliophile, living his life as if it were an extension of his favorite fiction. I have a soft spot for people like that since my own father had a similar bent. The difference: my father was gainfully employed as an English professor and wasn't an alcoholic. Through the author's eyes we witness the descent of both her parents, but especially her mother, into the grips of alcoholism, and her mother's horrible death. As the author, Jeanne Darst, is commenting on her parents she is also telling the stories of the predicaments caused by her own alcoholism. I was shocked by the lack of self-awareness about this that the author had, considering her book is published!! Where was the editor? The author finally gets sober, but that is told as another "oh yeah and this happened too" kind of story, which made me wonder if the she had any capacity at all to learn and grow from her horrific experiences. Okay, she did have a few good insights along the way, and that too kept me going, also the voyeurism of watching the train wreck of family keep on wrecking. And I was curious if her blunt, tell-it-like-it-is style would ever slip into sustained wisdom. Not for me it didn't.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sara Furr

    I really wanted to like this book. I'd read a few glowing reviews. I made it through the first 58 pages even though they were a bit tedious with a fair amount of crude language and references thrown in for no apparent purpose. But then I read the first sentence on p. 59, "Mom's Summa Cum Laude routine got a little old after a few hundred mentions, and she'd never really had a job." This is a writer referring to the mother who appears to be the sole person responsible for paying the few bills I really wanted to like this book. I'd read a few glowing reviews. I made it through the first 58 pages even though they were a bit tedious with a fair amount of crude language and references thrown in for no apparent purpose. But then I read the first sentence on p. 59, "Mom's Summa Cum Laude routine got a little old after a few hundred mentions, and she'd never really had a job." This is a writer referring to the mother who appears to be the sole person responsible for paying the few bills which were paid, making all of the meals, and, I suspect, keeping everyone clothed and clean. It just bugs the hell out of me that this narcissistic whiner of a writer would say that about her mother. Yes, I get it that her mother was a drunk. So is the writer. So are millions of other people. But good grief, I will never understand how an adult woman can write that sentence. It made me unable to take the rest of the book seriously as I kept having that sentence repeat itself over and over in my mind. It made me realize how immature and unbalanced the author must be. In addition, the fact that she reveals so many intimate and embarrassing details about the lives of other people - people who are not in the public eye but are likely to recognize themselves in the book...ugh. Don't bother to read this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Noël

    Darst's book is another in a long line of , "look at my crazy childhood/life/career choices" memoirs. Quite often I found her annoying, with her insistence that One Has to Suffer For Art. At 20, it's understandable. At 30, you're just avoiding growing up. In any case, I kept reading because Darst does make her crazy family interesting, the passages on her dad's Fitzgerald obsession in particular. I also liked her snarky POV, but sometimes the story was disjointed - she'd mention someone by first Darst's book is another in a long line of , "look at my crazy childhood/life/career choices" memoirs. Quite often I found her annoying, with her insistence that One Has to Suffer For Art. At 20, it's understandable. At 30, you're just avoiding growing up. In any case, I kept reading because Darst does make her crazy family interesting, the passages on her dad's Fitzgerald obsession in particular. I also liked her snarky POV, but sometimes the story was disjointed - she'd mention someone by first name only out of the blue, with no prior reference to who they were or how they related to the story. That said, if you want a truly riveting take on the memoir, check out "The Liars Club" or the one by Jeanette Walls that's escaping me right now. Oh and you might remember Darst from the This American Life episode, "Frenemies" where her sister marries a Muslim. Which? Doesn't even come up. Der hell?

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jodi Sh.

    I only buy books that I've read and have changed my life, or by people that make me want to find them, stalk them and hang out with them. I read a library copy of Fiction Ruined My Family after seeing it recommended via Flavorpill's listicle "10 of the Most Hilarious Memoirs You'll Ever Read" (of which I have now read all but the graphic novel and the Sedaris & now I have to go out and buy my own. Wonderful memoir about what it's like to grow up with colorful parents, afraid you'll become I only buy books that I've read and have changed my life, or by people that make me want to find them, stalk them and hang out with them. I read a library copy of Fiction Ruined My Family after seeing it recommended via Flavorpill's listicle "10 of the Most Hilarious Memoirs You'll Ever Read" (of which I have now read all but the graphic novel and the Sedaris & now I have to go out and buy my own. Wonderful memoir about what it's like to grow up with colorful parents, afraid you'll become your alcoholic mother. Or your borderline insane, not really writing, writer father. And then, discovering that actually, you're both, and it's not so bad. Jeanne Darst is funny, and smart, and writes really good sentences which are my favorite part of books. And so, the stalking begins...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carrol

    Not a bad read, but I'm tempted to say if you've read one story of a dysfunctional family you've read them all. Maybe that's not fair. In this case, the author's dad was always writing the great American novel but never getting it finished, though he had been published in magazines such as The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, etc. Meanwhile, the mother was drinking herself into oblivion and trying to maintain the fiction that the family moved in the "better" echelons of society. The Not a bad read, but I'm tempted to say if you've read one story of a dysfunctional family you've read them all. Maybe that's not fair. In this case, the author's dad was always writing the great American novel but never getting it finished, though he had been published in magazines such as The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, etc. Meanwhile, the mother was drinking herself into oblivion and trying to maintain the fiction that the family moved in the "better" echelons of society. The author ended up on a path that she finally recognized as the same one her mother was on and managed to correct herself and actually become a published author. In a couple of episodes in the book, though perhaps integral to the story, the "yuck" factor was a little too high for me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads and I'm very sorry it took me far too long to read it. My taking so long to read this book was in no way a reflection on the quality of the book or the author's writing. It's simply a reflection of my busy schedule and the mounds, and mounds of books I have yet to read. That being said, I really liked this book. Jeanne is hilarious and I really enjoyed reading about her life. Her writing style is fantastic. For the first time, I read a I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads and I'm very sorry it took me far too long to read it. My taking so long to read this book was in no way a reflection on the quality of the book or the author's writing. It's simply a reflection of my busy schedule and the mounds, and mounds of books I have yet to read. That being said, I really liked this book. Jeanne is hilarious and I really enjoyed reading about her life. Her writing style is fantastic. For the first time, I read a memoir and actually came out feeling like I knew the person. I would, and have already, suggest that people read this book; especially if one has a good sense of humor.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    A wickedly funny memoir about a disturbed family, consisting of a father with vague literary ambitions, who finds literature more important than his family, an alcoholic mother and their four daughters, of which the author is the youngest. When she grows up, Jeanne finds out that she has the ambitions of her father combined with a taste for liquor of her mother. Darst describes all these episodes in her and her family's life. Some are hilarious, some are pretty disturbing but all show the A wickedly funny memoir about a disturbed family, consisting of a father with vague literary ambitions, who finds literature more important than his family, an alcoholic mother and their four daughters, of which the author is the youngest. When she grows up, Jeanne finds out that she has the ambitions of her father combined with a taste for liquor of her mother. Darst describes all these episodes in her and her family's life. Some are hilarious, some are pretty disturbing but all show the geniousness of a highly original individual. Her bright conclusion that she'd better try to stay sober doesn't come too soon. Reminiscent of Jeanette Walls, Alexandra Fuller and perhaps A.L. Kennedy

  25. 4 out of 5

    Zac Chase

    Darst moves fluidly from the comic to the tragic and back again. Opposing pages regularly brought out opposing emotions. She details life growing up with three sisters, a non-writing writer father and a alcoholic-depressive mother with wit and honesty. It's clear at several points Darst's humor is the well-developed defense mechanism one often finds in the children of alcoholics. Appropriate to the book, I found myself darkly grateful at that humor's refinement. I read the book in one sitting and Darst moves fluidly from the comic to the tragic and back again. Opposing pages regularly brought out opposing emotions. She details life growing up with three sisters, a non-writing writer father and a alcoholic-depressive mother with wit and honesty. It's clear at several points Darst's humor is the well-developed defense mechanism one often finds in the children of alcoholics. Appropriate to the book, I found myself darkly grateful at that humor's refinement. I read the book in one sitting and laughed aloud several times. The most unexpected piece? How many beautiful passages Darst sneaks in on reading, writing and literature. Beautiful.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cathleen

    I really wanted to like this book, but I had a hard time getting through it. I found the writing disconnected and choppy. In the beginning of the memoir, the family members seemed like caricatures: the frustrated, idealistic writer; the socially prominent, disappointed, alcoholic mother. The daughters were described in very broad brush strokes until about 3/4 of the way through the memoir. The last third of the memoir did engage me,and the episodes and writing did improve near the end. I I really wanted to like this book, but I had a hard time getting through it. I found the writing disconnected and choppy. In the beginning of the memoir, the family members seemed like caricatures: the frustrated, idealistic writer; the socially prominent, disappointed, alcoholic mother. The daughters were described in very broad brush strokes until about 3/4 of the way through the memoir. The last third of the memoir did engage me,and the episodes and writing did improve near the end. I probably wouldn't have read that far, though, if this hadn't been a Goodreads giveaway.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Luann Ritsema

    The humor got old before I was half way through this book -- but I held on because I did think Darst was a good writer and I kept hoping for more. The last third of the book was more satisfying, more meaningfully personal, less sarcastic and striving to be funny. Overall, I was disappointed. Something about it felt less than honest, not dishonest about what happened but dishonest in how she feels about it. And the self-absorption really got to be too much.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rozanne

    The best thing about this book is the title, even though the title is misleading. Her family wasn't ruined. She's just a spoiled brat who is annoyed because she maybe didn't get everything she felt she was entitled to in life. She has a very narrow view of society and her place in it. Most irksome--she's isn't a very good writer and is extremely derivative and superficial. Her dad sounds just like David Sedaris's dad. How did that happen, I wonder?

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nette

    Nothing I like better than a smart, funny writer with a big, crazy family and absolutely no feelings of entitlement or self-pity. (Or shame: not many ladies would admit to accidentally giving family members pubic lice, or pooping into a plastic bag.) She also has a wonderfully twisty prose style, a unique way of fashioning a sentence. A few lucky friends will be receiving this for Christmas this year.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

    Fiction Ruined My FamilyJeanne DarstI love this book. It's funny, unsentimental and whip-smart.

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