cover image The Gin Closet

The Gin Closet

Leslie Jamison, . . Free Press, $25 (274pp) ISBN 978-1-4391-5321-5

Jamison's beautifully written debut follows independent young New Yorker Stella and her estranged aunt Tilly as they form some version of a family. Stella is disenchanted with her life and job as a journalist's personal assistant; Tilly is a professional lost soul, a former prostitute, and an unsuccessful recovering alcoholic. To all appearances, Stella is the savior, finding Tilly, who's been shunned by the family, to rescue her; but through alternating first-person accounts, the reader grows to view the two women as equals. Their experiences with men especially mirror one another's; Tilly has merely had worse luck. Stella describes wanting a man, “any man, who could offer his face as a label for my loneliness”; later, recalling men she's been with, Tilly says, “most of them I didn't even like that much, but they seemed like the easiest way to change my own life.” The relationship between Stella and Tilly is compelling, as are their relationships with auxiliary characters, like Stella's brother and Tilly's son, but what truly drives the novel is Jamison's gorgeous prose. (Feb.)