Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book Review: After a While You Just Get Used to It by Gwendolyn Knapp

From Goodreads:
Growing up in a dying breed of eccentric Florida crackers, Knapp thought she had it rough—what with her pack rat mother, Margie; her aunt Susie, who has fewer teeth than prison stays; and Margie’s bipolar boyfriend, John. But not long after Knapp moves to New Orleans, Margie packs up her House of Hoarders and follows along. As if Knapp weren’t struggling enough to keep herself afloat, working odd jobs and trying to find love while suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, the thirty-year-old realizes that she’s never going to escape her family’s unendingly dysfunctional drama.
Knapp honed her writing chops and distinctive Southern Gothic–humor style writing short pieces and participating in the renowned reading series Literary Death Match. Now, like bestselling authors Jenny Lawson, Laurie Notaro, and Julie Klausner before her, Knapp bares her sad and twisted life for readers everywhere to enjoy.
There's a certain brand of memoir that I feel like I've read too much of lately.  It's a woman approximately my age who can't seem to grow up and get settled - she spends the entire book drinking, sleeping with everyone, and has little to no self-esteem (like Lena Dunham or Alida Nugent).  And it's supposed to be super funny.  I am so happy to say that this is NOT one of those memoirs.  Knapp struggles and dates the wrong guy and messes up, but she's also working hard on her life and on being an adult.  She takes responsibility for herself and tries to do better, which makes it so much more enjoyable to read about the hilarious situations she winds up in.  The reader doesn't have to feel guilty for laughing, because you trust that Knapp is actually going to make it in the end.

Not only does Knapp's humor not make me sad, it actually makes me laugh.  I can really appreciate a dysfunctional Southern family and that's what Knapp has in spades.  She keeps it genuine, including some of the difficulties, but her sense of humor shines through all of it.  I definitely think the comparison to Jenny Lawson and Laurie Notaro is apt.

Entertainment Value
I guess my comments on the writing could also be taken as comments on the entertainment value.  It's funny, it made me laugh out loud, and I thought Knapp was charming and believable.  I've avoided a lot of memoirs by authors of my generation because I do tend to find them living in a perpetual adolescence, but I loved the Knapp doesn't seem to be taking that path (much like Lawson, in my opinion).  Yes, she has hard times and she does make light of them, but she's not static and stuck in her misery.  I came out of the book feeling happy for her and appreciating her take on poor Southern life, rather than feeling bad for her and hoping she doesn't drink herself to death within the next five years.

I loved it, found her hilarious and uplifting, and can't wait to see what she writes next.  This is a perfect follow up for fans of Jenny Lawson and makes great reading for those who want to read something by a woman who is taking on her hardships with a brilliant sense of humor.  If you want to read something funny by someone smart, this is where to go.

Thanks to Roshe and Penguin Random House for providing me with a copy to review!

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