The Glass Eye: A memoir (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Jeannie was named after her father's dead daughter, Jeanne, from a previous marriage and The Glass Eye is the story of how Jeannie, in turn, copes with the grief of her own father’s death. Vanasco has this unique and brilliant way of structuring her narrative that leaves the reader bewildered and enlightened at the same time. She talks about the frustration of writing this book for her father, her hero, as she copes with her own mental breakdowns. I am not one for memoirs, but this is a rare gem that highlights something so sacred as a daughter’s relationship to her father. 

— Jason Kennedy

October 2017 Indie Next List

“The Glass Eye, at its heart, is a memoir of Jeannie's relationship with her late father and the grief she experienced after his death. But it's also about her half-sister, Jeanne, who died before she was born; it's about mental illness; and it's about family and what that means. This is memoir at its best. The prose is powerful and often breathtaking - it'll make your heart break, it might make you cry, and you'll probably even laugh a few times. This is an elegy fierce and lyrical and raw, like none I've read before.”
— Sarah Malley, Newtonville Books, Newton, MA

Top Ten

“An absolutely beautiful exploration of family, grief, memory, and madness, The Glass Eye is outstanding. Jeannie Vanasco promised her father before his death that she would write a book for him, never knowing the psychological and mental toll the process would ultimately take on her. Vanasco explores her family's history-the entirely separate family her father had before she was born and the late-in-life marriage that led to Jeannie's birth-and her own destructive behavior as she falls in and out of a mental illness that informs the truly fascinating structure of the book. The layers found in this memoir are as plentiful as the layers found in the human eye; it is as deeply layered as the human experience itself.”
— Jamie Thomas, Women & Children First, Chicago, IL


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

Poets & Writers' Best Nonfiction Debut of 2017

NYLON and Newsweek Editor's Choice

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. 

About the Author

Jeannie Vanasco is the author of The Glass Eye: A Memoir (Tin House Books, 2017). Her work has appeared in The Believer, the New York Times Modern Love, Tin House, and elsewhere. She lives in Baltimore and is an assistant professor at Towson University. Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl is her second book.

Praise For…

Brilliant . . . Reminiscent of Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts . . . As the pages fly by, we’re right by Vanasco, breathlessly experiencing her grief, mania, revelations, and—ultimately—her relief.

— Entertainment Weekly

Wildly innovative. 
— New York Magazine

Hypnotic . . . a haunting exploration of perception, memory, and the complexities of grief. In language that is understated and economical, Vanasco brings to life the father she loved with an almost frightening force . . . Vanasco's characters and settings are vivid, prismatic, and surreal.
— The New York Times Book Review

Vanasco explores the intricacies of the human psyche with stunning poignancy.
— Newsweek

This powerful, haunting memoir starts off with one of the more compelling first sentences I’ve read in some time: “The night before he died, I promised my dad I would write a book for him.” [The Glass Eye is] a journey that takes Vanasco into the dark depths of her family history, as well as her own psyche, and it shows in an incredibly intimate way the methods we use to cope with loss, disappointment, and grief, and how we can try and make our way out of the darkness and into a place of recovery.

— NYLON, Best Books of Fall

Vanasco's candor, curiosity, and commitment to human understanding are not to be missed.
— Booklist, Starred Review

A deceptively spare life story that sneaks up and surprises you with its sudden fecundity and power.
— Kirkus

Jeannie Vanasco expertly explores the trinity between grief, psychosis, and creativity in a taut memoir about her beloved father and all that arose in his absence. This book has a blazing lyricism to it, one that’s bound to be a trademark of Vanasco’s limber mind. . . . The Glass Eye—spare, deep, and kaleidoscopic—will make you want to read the first page again after you finish the last.

— Ploughshares

Powerful and ruminative . . . This is an illuminating manual for understanding grief and the strange places it leads.
— Publishers Weekly

[A]n intense and unforgettable memoir, as fascinating for its artistry as for its subject matter. . . . Lyric, haunted, smart and tortured, this is an obsessive love letter to a dead father as well as a singular work of literature.
— Shelf Awareness

Compelling . . . Vanasco writes about her episodes of mental illness in a way that makes them so accessible, almost seeming rational at times.
— Bustle

One of the most inventive and engrossing memoirs I've read in a long, long time . . . If you want to read something that will make you think and that will keep revealing more to you every time you read it, this is the book.
— Minnesota Public Radio

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.

— Darin Strauss, author of HALF A LIFE

In The Glass Eye, Jeannie 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.

— Melissa Febos, author of WHIP SMART & ABANDON ME

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.

— Alexandra Styron, author of READING MY FATHER

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.

— Lacy Johnson, author of THE OTHER SIDE

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.

— John Keene, author of COUNTERNARRATIVES

I have never read anything quite like The Glass Eye. . . . I've never read a book where the author is experiencing mental illness at the time of writing, not in retrospect. The writing is fierce and engaging, and I truly couldn't put it down.

— Courtney Flynn, Trident Booksellers

Jeannie Vanasco has crafted a book that will worm its way under your skin, a book that will not give you easy answers or heartwarming takeaways, much in the same way that life will not give you easy answers or heartwarming takeaways. Jeannie Vanasco has created a book that I cannot stop thinking about.
— Emily Ballaine, Green Apple Books

An absolutely beautiful exploration of family, grief, memory, and madness, this book is outstanding. . . . The layers found in this memoir are as plentiful as the layers found in the human eye; ultimately, it is as deeply layered as the human experience itself.
— Jamie Thomas, Women & Children First

An unfettered dive into a brilliant, unraveling mind. Vanasco's memoir is visceral, poignant, and ultimately an affirmation of the healing power of literature and the resilience of the human soul. Astounding.
— Keaton Patterson, Brazos Bookstore

An experimental memoir that would make Maggie Nelson proud, The Glass Eye is a literary tour de force, a hurricane of language and emotions that fly off the page, a testament to love and loss and how the lexicon of grief, though universal, is always a personal discourse.

— Rachel Kaplan, Avid Bookshop

Enchanting . . . Vanasco's humor and intelligence shine through her journey of loss.

— Sarah Goddin, Quail Ridge Books

This is memoir at its best. The prose is powerful and often breathtaking—it’ll make your heart break, it might make you cry, and you’ll probably even laugh a few times. This is an elegy fierce and lyrical and raw, like none I’ve read before.
— Sarah Malley, Newtonville Books

The Glass Eye is absolutely brilliant! Jeannie Vanasco taps into her own mental and emotional destruction after her father dies in a memoir that is constructed like no other. Not only did her writing transport me into her world (her mind), but Jeannie’s ability to express the complexities of the human mind in such a beautiful and honest way, made her mania appear almost rational. . . . One of the best memoirs I’ve read in a long time.

— Stephanie Coleman, Tattered Cover Bookstore

Product Details
ISBN: 9781941040775
ISBN-10: 1941040772
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017
Pages: 270
Language: English