Kaylie Jones‘ memoir of growing up the daughter of novelist James Jones and life with her alcoholic but glamorous mother, Gloria, Lies My Mother Never Told Me, made for an excellent transition from my recent literary fiction binge. Raised in Paris surrounded by literary icons, boozy parties, and celebrities, Jones weaves the memoir together with her mother’s anecdotes opening each section, then chronologically works her way from childhood, through her own alcoholism and recovery, and her mother Gloria’s alcoholism, which eventually leads to Gloria’s death.
Jones pulls no punches about the ugly side of the “glamorous” literary drinking life- the insults hurled between mother and daughter, the risks carelessly taken, and the complexities of friends who think of an alcoholic as “fun” and a sober person as joyless. Readers will both enjoy the random sightings of famous people (Sinatra, Mailer, etc.) and Jones’ ability to avoid being overly maudlin while describing some mighty ugly scenes between her mother and herself.
This is not a straight-up redemption story. Jones avoids the standard addiction memoir format- things get ugly, a revelation, things are all better. Like real life, this narrative gets ugly, better, worse again, and complex. Jones bravely confesses her own sins as well, rather than create a monster out of her mother entirely.
Jones’ father dies when she is 16 from his own alcoholism, making her promise to keep her mother from drinking. From that point forward, Jones is on a journey, first denying that she or her mother have a real problem, then saving herself, while being unable to save her mother from her own addiction. In Gloria, the reader can see the vestiges of a different time, when smoking and drinking around the clock were not only acceptable, they were expected. However, Gloria is unable to stop the party at the end of the era and lashes out, her drinking impacting everyone in her path.
Readers who enjoy literary celebrity memoirs and readers who are seeking a unique addiction memoir will enjoy this book. I found the writing top-notch and look forward to tracking down more of Ms. Jones’ work in the future.