Fiction Ruined My Family: A Review

I just finished “Fiction Ruined My Family” by Jeanne Darst, which was another memoir about a shabby, once very wealthy WASP-y family with all sorts of dysfunction.   The novel had notes of David Sedaris (the the irresponsible but loveable addict hero, the ruthless barbs from siblings, the chain smoking mom and intellectual dad), of The Kids Are All Right (upper class on the outside but can’t afford lunch money) and even Glass Castle (but instead of poverty at childhood, it’s poverty in adulthood).  I’m always fascinated by Old Money, maybe because I don’t have it.  The author sets her table with silver mint julep spoons from her St. Louis great grandparents, and the closest thing I have is a lightweight serving spoon that is one of the few meager heirlooms that have been “passed down” in my family.  There’s a big Old Money and Scholarly component here in New England, which made the characters even more interesting to me (I know these people: threadbare LL Bean sweaters and stacks of books).   Jean-Joe, as her father lovingly calls her is a heroine that could seemingly care less about status- she quits prestigious jobs so she can suffer as a writer, often times she doesn’t know where her next meal is coming from.  She’s a raging alcoholic through much of the book and she’s pretty crass.  I found myself admiring her candor, her grit, her dedication to writing in spite of herself.  I loved the relentless literary references from her father throughout the book, which made him lovable and exasperating at the same time.  We all have family members or friends who drive us crazy sticking with one topic we really couldn’t care less about, and somehow she seems to manage listening and giving him what he wants to hear (telling him that she’s reading Dubliners to shut him up vs. admitting that The Happiest Baby on the Block is on her nightstand).   I’m glad Jean-Joe sold her novel and is getting some fame, because she’s worked hard and suffered for her art.  Now I want to read another memoir. 

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