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review 2017-07-07 18:22
Party Memoir, Part Essays, Part Commentary on Life
Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writin - Jennifer Weiner

So this was a very weird book to read. I liked it, didn't love it, and don't really see myself re-reading this for years to come like I will other memoirs written by Roxanne Gay, Jenny Lawson and Mindy Kaling.

 

I think for me, this book jumped around way too much to get a good handle on things. Plus, Weiner mixed mediums in here. We get part memoir and then she throws in a short story I think that she wrote about her sister and her when they went to visit their grandmother, then it's part commentary to us the reader, her daughters, and then memoir format again.

 

The initial part of the book starts off in a linear timeline and then that gets shot all to hell in a bit and jumps back and forth until the very end. 

 

I have been reading Jennifer Weiner's books for a very long time. My first exposure to her was "Good in Bed" and I absolutely loved that. I couldn't really relate to "Little Earthquakes" but still enjoyed that book as well. I even liked her foray into short story horror fiction with stories like "Recalculating" and then a couple of her books didn't gel with me and I just pretty much took her from my auto-buy category to well see if you like the sample category. The last two books I read of hers I have really enjoyed though, so will think about putting her books back in the auto-buy category. 

 

I do think that though parts of this book were painfully honest, I didn't get a very good sense of Weiner's family outside of her sister, mother, and grandmother. Her brothers are ghost-like (referred to but rarely appear). We know that her father left her family and that caused a hole that her mother tried to fill. And due to her father not meeting his obligations, the family sounded like they definitely struggled. And reading between the lines and reading what is actually written it sounds like the man had serious mental health issues. I felt for her while reading anything to deal with that. When a parent is gone you can't fix what happened before. So even when there's a slight feeling of relief, you still feel sorrow over that.


I think that if Weiner had stuck with just her life and how that shaped her to be a writer it would have worked better for me. When she goes off and focuses on other things that I thought were interesting, but ultimately didn't fit the book (a male reviewer bashes her and others online via Twitter and there's a huge fallout with that) is when my interest started to wane. It's not that it means she wasn't making a good point. I just didn't get why it was even included.

 

Other things at times seem to not really be provided enough development for me to get a sense of things. For example, Weiner is a divorced mother of two girls and in a committed relationship with an old boyfriend. She used parts of her life to write "Who Do You Love". But the man in the book is brought up sparingly in the book, and it just felt like he along with all of the men in her memoir don't feel developed. I know that they are all real people, but I don't get a sense of them at all. And the way we readers are introduced to him was weird too. We read about them together first, then work backwards to she met him again, and then someone justifies ending her marriage. I don't know, the whole thing felt uncomfortable. It reminded me of a time I was at a bar waiting on a friend (reading a book of course!) and some man sat next to me asked me how I was doing, I muttered fine, and then before I know it starts telling me how his wife left him for someone else and he needed a drink.

 

Image result for danger gif

  

I tried to exit out of that conversation for 20 freaking minutes. I was giving the bartender for the love of all that is holy glances who purposely stayed the heck away from us. So I just had a sense of this is very weird while reading the book and deciding to back away from even trying to explore what point she was trying to get across there.

 

The writing was at times I felt open. The flow wasn't that great for reasons I said above. 


The ending to her daughters I thought was great, but it didn't end as solidly as I think it could have. 

 

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text 2017-07-07 14:00
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writin - Jennifer Weiner

I liked this. Not as much as other memoirs I have read this year, but well enough. I think the big issue though is that Weiner does not at times tell her story in a linear way. She jumps back and forth and a few times I got confused.

 

Also it felt like the man she says that she thought about everyday of her life (not her husband) came out of nowhere in the book. We are introduced to him in fits and starts and I was very confused about the whole thing. 

 

I definitely get that she and her siblings and mother are close. I also now get where the inspiration for many of her stories came from which was nice. I definitely have sympathy for her dealing with a father who walked away from her family and only came back when she find success to demand money. 

 

 

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text 2017-07-07 00:36
Reading progress update: I've read 25%.
Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writin - Jennifer Weiner

Apparently I'm on a memoir run. So far very engaging.

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review 2017-02-16 02:50
An uneven collection from one of America's top writers
Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writin - Jennifer Weiner

I'm not the biggest Jennifer Weiner fan in the world, nor am I in her target demographic in any way, shape, or form -- but I've enjoyed (in some cases more) those books of hers that I've read. So I figured there was a better than even chance that I'd appreciate this collection of essays about her life, career, love life, dogs, social media and more. It's also read by Weiner herself, which is almost always a winning characteristic for me.

Sadly, this audiobook was better in theory than it was in real life.

 

There's a scene in the last season of Gilmore Girls where Logan points out to Rory that despite her prejudices, attitudes and belief, she's actually part of the same privileged class that he is -- which she doesn't take too well (understandably). I kept thinking about that as I listened to some of Weiner's tales of woe about her childhood and college life. I'm not saying that she didn't have problems in her childhood, that she didn't have trials that no one should have to go through, or overcome a lot in her professional life. But man...the self-pity was overblown -- she got an Ivy League education, came out of it with less debt than many people I know who went to less prestigious schools, took a high school trip to Israel, and a largely pleasant childhood.

 

It doesn't get much better when she starts talking about her adult life, either. She assumes sexism -- and has faced, continues to face, and will probably face a good deal of it in the future -- but seems to have some fairly strong gender biases herself. She will frequently say something like "As a woman, I know I'm supposed to be X in this situation." Almost every time she said something like that I thought, actually a man in the same situation would be expected to behave the same way -- it may not be honest, healthy, or "authentic" in the contemporary understanding -- but it's what how an adult person in polite Western culture should act.

 

Oddly, for someone who lamented her own inability to be a stay-at-home mom/writer, the scorn she displays for stay-at-home moms later in the book seems out of character. Actually, she is dismissive of people with other beliefs and convictions than hers. I'm not suggesting for a moment that she shouldn't be an opinionated person (of any sex), but it's hard to respect anyone who can't reason with their opponents with out dismissing or vilifying them.

 

I actually had a few more things in my notes along those things, but seeing this on the screen makes me want to stop before this becomes a diatribe against the book. Because, believe it or not, I enjoyed this book -- when she tells a narrative or goes for a laugh, I really got into the book and wanted to hear more. It's when she gets on her soapbox or when she doles out advice that wouldn't work for women less-well-off than she is, I couldn't enjoy it.

 

If anything, this book makes me like her fiction more -- because the flawed people she writes about are a lot more relatable than she presents herself as. But listening (I think reading would be better -- see below) to Weiner describe her problems with overeating, or the journey to get her first book published (and the real life experiences that shaped the book), her mother's reactions to her book tours, getting the movie In Her Shoes made, stories about her dogs, and so on -- man, I really liked that and would've gladly consumed more of that kind of thing.

 

As an audiobook, this was a disappointment. I found the little sound effect/chime thing between chapters grating. Weiner's reading was too slow and her cadence demonstrates that she reads a lot to her kids. Which would be fine if the prose matched, but it didn't.

 

I can't rate this too low -- it was well-written I laughed, I felt for her and some of the other people she talked about in a way that I can't justify rating below a 3. But man, I want to.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/02/15/hungry-heart-audiobook-by-jennifer-weiner
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review 2017-01-09 18:13
Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writin - Jennifer Weiner
Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writin - Jennifer Weiner

I've enjoyed a couple of Weiner's books, but more than her storytelling, I really admire her activism. I lost patience with people ragging on women's writing and writing for women a couple of decades ago. And don't get me started on genre snobbery. I READ POPULAR BOOKS. And so does every highbrow apologist, because the only writings that have survived from previous centuries, let alone millennia, were POPULAR. And it is my belief that writers who worked for pay on deadline, with quick turnaround, are the best.

So I remember many of Weiner's efforts to speak out against the quiet, systemic sexism that denigrates what women do as somehow less valuable than men's. Women young through old are responsible for most of the books read and sold in the U.S., but do they get the majority of the bylines, reviews, or awards? No, they don't even get half. VIDA's got the numbers and they're appalling, as is the fact that the worst offenders do not even have to apologize, because who cares? And the most prestige, the most coverage, the most work continues to go to het white men that no one enjoys reading.

Anyway, Weiner is funiest when writing of the worst times of her life. Her family is screwed up in mostly charming ways. She is always clear that writing is a job, and for anyone interested in following her advice, she presents a refreshingly clear-eyed training plan. So that's all great. But I love the bits when she is actively fighting for justice: I hope she's proud of that work. I hope her daughters are, too.

Library copy

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