(This free book was sent to me by the publisher.)
Hi friends! I would like to start off by saying that I missed you guys so much that I made myself push through my current read just so I could update y’all with a new recommendation and catch up to all the exciting new things you have to share with me. I didn’t do anything super fun or crazy over the weekend so make sure to share your adventures and I can live vicariously through you.
In her critically acclaimed first book, Johnny’s Girl, Kim Rich presented the story of her unconventional childhood as the daughter of an Alaskan mobster and a troubled showgirl. This new memoir picks up where Johnny’s Girl left off, retelling the story of the author’s nearly lifelong pursuit to live what she thought to be “a normal life.”
Rich tugs at your heartstrings as you follow her journey toward normalcy, from her teen years, freshly orphaned, through her high school years spent couch-surfing at local families’ homes, then through her itinerant college years, a failed first marriage, and a rising career as a journalist. Through frank and down-to-earth storytelling, Rich also tells of her grandfather’s kidnapping, a frightening health crisis, and a six-year attempt to have children.
In A Normal Life, Rich recounts her vivid story of being an ordinary girl faced with extraordinary circumstances-at seemingly every turn in life-with grace, humility, and wit.
Now, I have never read Johnny’s Girl, and perhaps I would have had enjoyed A Normal Life much more if I had, but as it was, I gave this book 2.5 stars . Here’s why:
Most memoirs don’t have pictures, but this one did and that was honestly one of my favorite parts of reading it. I found myself looking forward, searching for the next picture, and reading to understand the context when I got there. It made the story much more real for me. After all, seeing is believing.
There were also some very humorous anecdotes. Kim Rich has a great sense of humor and even throughout some of her more trying points, when illness and death were stressing her and weighing her down, she would put in a comment or story that would make me laugh. (Now I don’t know if the added comments were actually said/thought in the heat of the moment, or if they were added in editing, but they did make the read a little bit better).
My other favorite thing about this memoir was Rich’s honesty about her struggle with infertility and breast cancer. She was very real about what both struggles are like. Particularly in the case of breast cancer, she brought up some points that I had not really thought about before. What is the value of a women’s breasts? Is a mastectomy worth it if it means the cancer won’t ever come back, even if chemotherapy will do the trick? These are questions I would not have thought about, unless I was diagnosed suddenly, but these questions are deep. They’re important. And most of all, Rich provides us with her honest thoughts and answers to these questions.
However, there were quite a few bits of A Normal Life: A Memoir that I just didn’t quite care for. The whole thing had the feel of an old grandpa trying to get his grandkids to sit still and listen to a story about his youth. There were parts that felt so unnecessary and pointless to include, details that served no purpose other than pages on a book. Rich is/was a journalist and that is evident in the way that her story flows, much like a history textbook, in which details and events tell the story, but don’t allow for emotional investment. Rich whines about critics saying she wasn’t emotional enough in Johnny’s Girl, but I understand their criticism; by not allowing herself to get emotionally invested in the material, she also prevents her readers from doing so. And if I am not emotionally invested in the characters, I see no reason to keep reading.
One of the most annoying quirks of Rich’s writing were her reiterations. If she wrote about a detail that would be important to a story, there were time when she would reiterate it multiple times. Like, over and over. With. Periods. Between. Words. My thoughts while reading, “WE GET IT”. I understand that if a reader misses a detail, it sometimes makes the anecdote less effective, but it also is unnecessary to punctuate every word in trying to make a point, or repeat the point three times. It made me feel once again like my grandfather trying to tell me a story I didn’t want to listen to: giving me details over and over in an attempt to invest me in the story.
Yes, there were parts that made me feel deeply for Kim, there were parts that made me laugh, and parts that made me (almost) cry. But for the most part, I felt unattached and uninterested. I really hope my next read is more interesting, and a little less dry and unemotional.
What have you guys been reading recently? Has anyone else had the same problem, of feeling uninvested (and losing focus as a result)? Comment and let me know! I would love to feel better about myself.
Until then, friends! Talk to you soon!