cover image The Glass Eye

The Glass Eye

Jeannie Vanasco. Tin House, $15.95 ISBN 978-1-941040-77-5

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. (Oct.)