Reviews for Splinters

by Leslie Jamison

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Bestseller Jamison (The Empathy Exams) chronicles in this exquisite memoir the dramatic shift her life took following the birth of her daughter and the end of her marriage. After giving birth three weeks before her due date in an emergency C-section, Jamison felt overwhelmingly grateful her daughter survived, even as she struggled with difficulties breastfeeding and other challenges of caring for a newborn. Then the real pain started: just over a year after her daughter was born, Jamison’s marriage to her husband, “C,” disintegrated as his anger grew more intense, and she began divorce proceedings. Two post-divorce boyfriends—“the tumbleweed” and “the ex-philosopher”—entered the picture, then exited. Throughout, Jamison is brutally honest about the obstacles to balancing creative fulfillment, parenting, dating, and sobriety, utilizing her beguiling command of language to spotlight feelings often obscured in other accounts of motherhood (“Sometimes motherhood tricked me into feeling virtuous because I was always taking care of someone. But it didn’t make me virtuous at all. It made me feral and ruthless”). Her soul-searching is sure to inspire readers seeking to find the sweet spot between living for their children and living for themselves. By turns funny, poignant, harrowing, and joyful, this standout personal history isn’t easily forgotten. Agent: Jin Auh, Wylie Agency. (Feb.)

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From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Jamison (Make It Scream, Make It Burn, 2019) is a ravenous observer and a writer of razor-sharp precision and pinwheeling creativity. She can also be obsessively confessional. In her latest memoir, she rakes the coals of her divorce from a fellow writer soon after she gave birth to their daughter and chronicles the struggles, fears, and joys of single motherhood. As a nursing and working mother, Jamison recounts incidents ludicrous and infuriating that encapsulate how we seem to deliberately make things difficult for parents. In analyzing what went wrong in her marriage, she revisits her childhood, her parents’ divorce, her father’s disinterest, and her closeness to her mother. She reports on couples therapy, friendships, taking her baby daughter on book tours, museum visits, love affairs with built-in obsolescence, and her difficult COVID-19 lockdown. Jamison's delight in her baby is warming, her advice to her writing students enlightening, her consummately crafted and original descriptions and insights arresting and illuminating, but her circular ruminations can be fatiguing. A necessary work for Jamison and her readers; hopefully she'll widen her scope in the next.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The essayist and novelist makes motherhood central to a memoir about love, guilt, and grief. Jamison and her husband had been in couples’ therapy for three years by the time their daughter was born—an event that intensified their marital problems. When the author’s mother came to help her in the first weeks, her husband felt shut out, and as Jamison exulted in motherhood, he became increasingly bitter and resentful. “Did honoring my vows mean figuring out how to make a daily home with C’s anger?” Jamison asked herself. Motherhood changed her perceptions. “Those first months,” she writes, “made the everyday visible again.” At times overwhelmed by the “sudden and exhausting plenitude” of mothering, Jamison was enchanted by her daughter’s body, her needs, and her marvelous discovery of the world. Once she and her husband separated, though, she confronted the burden of single parenting, “the overwhelm of managing her presence without help,” and the ongoing pressure of juggling child care, writing, and teaching. Much of the memoir focuses on Jamison’s ambivalence about divorce. Finally, she realizes that grief about her divorce “did not have to wear the clothes of guilt.” She reflects on her own childhood as the daughter of divorced parents, someone who rarely saw the father she wanted desperately to please; her relationship with her ever-patient, ever-helpful mother; her anorexia and alcoholism; and the men she dated once her daughter began spending two nights a week with C. The “wild vacillations of melodrama” of those affairs revealed her repetitive pattern of “turning men into assignments. Make him faithful. Make him fall in love with you.” A lesson she keeps learning, she admits, is the “difference between the story of love and the texture of living it, the story of motherhood and the texture of living it.” Candid, intimate recollections on motherhood and commitment. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.