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The Glass Eye
Cover of The Glass Eye
The Glass Eye
A Memoir

"Brilliant . . . As the pages fly by, we're right by Vanasco, breathlessly experiencing her grief, mania, revelations, and—ultimately — her relief." —Entertainment Weekly

One of Poets & Writers' Five Best Nonfiction Debuts of 2017
A NYLON and Newsweek Best Book of Fall
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great Writers Pick

For fans of Maggie Nelson and Meghan O'Rourke, Jeannie Vanasco emerges as a definitive new voice in this stunning portrait of a daughter's love for her father and her near-unraveling after his death.

The night before her father dies, eighteen-year-old Jeannie Vanasco promises she will write a book for him. But this isn't the book she imagined. The Glass Eye is Jeannie's struggle to honor her father, her larger-than-life hero but also the man who named her after his daughter from a previous marriage, a daughter who died.

After his funeral, Jeannie spends the next decade in escalating mania, in and out of hospitals—increasingly obsessed with the other Jeanne. Obsession turns to investigation as Jeannie plumbs her childhood awareness of her dead half sibling and hunts for clues into the mysterious circumstances of her death. It becomes a puzzle Jeannie feels she must solve to better understand herself and her father.

Jeannie Vanasco pulls us into her unraveling with such intimacy that her insanity becomes palpable, even logical. A brilliant exploration of the human psyche, The Glass Eye deepens our definitions of love, sanity, grief, and recovery.

"Brilliant . . . As the pages fly by, we're right by Vanasco, breathlessly experiencing her grief, mania, revelations, and—ultimately — her relief." —Entertainment Weekly

One of Poets & Writers' Five Best Nonfiction Debuts of 2017
A NYLON and Newsweek Best Book of Fall
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great Writers Pick

For fans of Maggie Nelson and Meghan O'Rourke, Jeannie Vanasco emerges as a definitive new voice in this stunning portrait of a daughter's love for her father and her near-unraveling after his death.

The night before her father dies, eighteen-year-old Jeannie Vanasco promises she will write a book for him. But this isn't the book she imagined. The Glass Eye is Jeannie's struggle to honor her father, her larger-than-life hero but also the man who named her after his daughter from a previous marriage, a daughter who died.

After his funeral, Jeannie spends the next decade in escalating mania, in and out of hospitals—increasingly obsessed with the other Jeanne. Obsession turns to investigation as Jeannie plumbs her childhood awareness of her dead half sibling and hunts for clues into the mysterious circumstances of her death. It becomes a puzzle Jeannie feels she must solve to better understand herself and her father.

Jeannie Vanasco pulls us into her unraveling with such intimacy that her insanity becomes palpable, even logical. A brilliant exploration of the human psyche, The Glass Eye deepens our definitions of love, sanity, grief, and recovery.
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About the Author-
  • Jeannie Vanasco has written for the Believer, Little Star Journal, NewYorker.com, Times Literary Supplement, Tin House, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Sandusky, Ohio, she now lives in Baltimore and teaches at Towson University.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 14, 2017
    In this powerful and ruminative memoir, Vanasco explores the years following her father’s death as her grief transforms into an increasing obsession with her half-sister Jeanne, who died before Vanasco was born. Her own distress is complicated by a mood disorder that causes her to hear voices and attempt suicide and that she believes is caused by her unending misery. Though Vanasco never met her sister, she draws parallels between her despair and the effect her sister’s death had on her father. In one of the narrative’s most striking turns, she learns that she has inherited a burial plot purchased by her father next to Jeanne’s grave. Vanasco expertly weaves trenchant metaphors throughout the text, particularly with her father’s glass eye, which represents his mortality and the fragility of life. The narrative is framed with Vanasco’s reflections on writing as she attempts to fulfill the promise she made to her father the night before he died, that she would write a book about him. Though her description of the actual event of her father’s death is deeply moving, Vanasco is less successful when describing her writing process, which can veer into overly affected introspection (“I drew my childhood home and wrote ‘Metaphor’ on all the windows”). This is an illuminating manual for understanding grief and the strange places it leads.

  • Kirkus

    September 1, 2017
    A young women's grief-stricken meditation on the loss of her beloved father illuminates a lifelong battle with crippling bipolar disorder and depression.In her debut memoir, Vanasco (English/Towson Univ.), whose writing has appeared in the Believer, the Times Literary Supplement, and other journals, digs deep into the kind of obsessional thinking that proves to be every bit as constricting as it is impenetrable. Within its sad confines, however, there also exists rich, fertile lands filled with the possibility of lifesaving self-discovery, which she explores in unadorned, sparse prose that builds in power as it accumulates. She recalls mostly fond memories of her father: "I taped photographs from my childhood along the silver rails of the bed: my dad reading a book to me despite the white patch over his eye; my dad pulling me in a wooden sled; my dad clutching me on his lap and looking off somewhere as if he knew this was coming." What loomed ahead for the author was a terribly long and lonely struggle beginning, at age 18, to come to terms with her father's death--and to find meaning in the short life of a mysterious Jeanne, her half sister from her father's previous marriage. Jeanne, who was killed in an automobile accident as a teenager, has cast a long shadow over Vanasco's psyche, infecting her sense of self while also promising to bring her closer to her father. The author's relentless introspection, which includes almost offhanded recollections of terrible self-harm and institutionalization, manages to cast a spotlight on the art of memoir itself, as she valiantly struggles to find the best medium possible to convey the true essence of a daughter's love for her father. A deceptively spare life story that sneaks up and surprises you with its sudden fecundity and power.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Lacy Johnson, author of THE OTHER SIDE One month after going away to college, Jeannie Vanasco learned that her father had died, and with him his unconditional and sometimes all-consuming love for her. In The Glass Eye the writer asks, in prose that mesmerizes with geometric precision, how we can orient ourselves to the world when our only compass is grief. What begins as an experience of profound loss becomes an obsession, the fierce intensity of which propels readers through this breathtaking book.
  • Alexandra Styron, author of READING MY FATHER

    The death of a parent is a stunning experience, and can upend even the most grounded soul. But what happens when the bereaved is already teetering on loose pins? How does a sensitive young writer make sense of life without a father to whom she was fiercely devoted? She writes him a book.

    In The Glass Eye, Jeannie Vanasco remembers her father with great affection while turning an unflinching gaze of the insupportable grief that visits her upon his death. The book is a fascinating meditation on loss, and an enduring monument to what remains. Wise, brave and beautifully wrought, The Glass Eye signals the arrival of an exceptionally fine new voice.

  • Melissa Febos, author of WHIP SMART & ABANDON ME Every memoir is a reckoning with the past, but only the most skilled and courageous memoirist can simultaneously inhabit the story that haunts her and the story of her reckoning with equal urgency. In The Glass Eye, Jeanne Vanasco shows us why rules should be broken: because an elegy that pulses with immediacy, a fragment that is inextricable from a whole, a book that comments on its own writing can smash what you think you know into pieces, and expose a piece of truth so bright it might be your own broken heart, handed back to you.
  • Darin Strauss, author of HALF A LIFE Jeannie Vanasco's The Glass Eye is memoir as it ought to be, but so rarely is: beautiful and painfully raw, but also restrained and lyrical. Vanasco is brilliant, and this book proves it.
  • John Keene, author of COUNTERNARRATIVES With The Glass Eye, Jeannie Vanasco has produced a debut of incisive vision. In prose as vivid as a novel and as chiseled as poetry, Vanasco shows the reader that memoir can entail an unexpected, ultimately liberating reckoning. Delving into her family's traumatic and moving history, Vanasco unearths the true story of her late namesake Jeanne, her father's enduring sorrows, and how both have informed her own often difficult personal journey.
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A Memoir
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