Tin House Books

Jeannie Vanasco's The Glass Eye is a brilliant, obsessive memoir

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Jeannie Vanasco’s father died when she was 18. He was elderly and had lost his left eye to a rare disease. Years before, he had also lost Jeanne — his daughter from a previous marriage — when she died in a fiery car crash.

These are the central, oft-repeated facts upon which Vanasco builds this brilliant, obsessive memoir about grieving the father she loved ferociously and how that grief exacerbated her own mental illness during the decade after his death. “I promised him a book,” Vanasco writes, “but not this book.”

Reminiscent of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, The Glass Eye isn’t a straightforward memoir: Rather, it’s a self-aware chronicle of her struggles as she talks us through her process on the page (“I worry I’m too easily swayed by the sonic impact of a line”) or researches the sparse facts of her half sister’s death. As the pages fly by, we’re right by Vanasco, breathlessly experiencing her grief, mania, revelations, and — ultimately — her relief. A-