Confession: I can’t really say that I know J.J. Landis very well, but before I read her memoir, Some Things You Keep, she was at least someone I had met in person and interacted with frequently on Facebook and blogs, and we have mutual friends.
Still, I was unprepared for the story I didn’t know. (That’s okay. It’s not a bad thing.)
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.
When we moved to Lancaster two years ago, and I outed myself as a writer to people I barely knew, one of the names that popped up as “someone I needed to meet” was J.J. I took advantage of the technology of Facebook and like a creeper I sent her a message and insisted that we be friends because of our mutual writer-ness.
She didn’t think that was weird (or if she did, she didn’t say the words out loud) and we became computer friends even though we lived in the same basic area.
Many months later, we finally met in person. (She invited me–a practical stranger!–to her house for coffee. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so nervous!)
She told Facebook later that one of the friends who lives inside her computer came to visit for real. It was a beautiful time of getting to know one another.
I knew then that she was writing/had written a book and was trying to decide what to do with it. She had a story to tell and it needed to get out, and I caught glimpses of it through her blog.
So finally–FINALLY–this year, she published her story, Some Things You Keep, a story of letting go, holding on and growing up.
And let me tell you, friends, that I am often nervous about reading/reviewing my friends’ work because I’m afraid it a) won’t live up to my expectations and I won’t be able to figure out how to tell them without hurting them or b) it will far exceed my expectations and I’ll be so jealous that I’m friends with amazing writers who have PUBLISHED A BOOK that I won’t be able to think straight. A third fear is that no one will believe me when I say it’s good because the author is my friend. That, I can’t control.
Let me be clear: J.J.’s book falls in the “b” category of those fears. Her memoir holds up to the standards set by memoirs of far more famous bloggers that I’ve read. As I turned the pages, I sometimes forgot that I was reading the story of someone I actually know. Her story, which includes family tragedies, drug and alcohol abuse, abortion and redemption is dramatic but never seems overly dramatized, if that makes sense. J.J. conveys her feelings about the life she lived in a way that acknowledges the truth without sanitizing it but doesn’t leave readers stuck in the mire. Each chapter of the book leads you to the next chapter of her life, and even though I know the person on the other side of these events, I kept turning the pages, reading one more chapter, to find out what happened next.
And her writing is beautiful. Here’s a sample:
Like my quilt was made with scraps of discarded fabric sewn together into something beautiful, so was my life. New life had come from the tatters.
In a way, I’m sad that more of you don’t J.J. She’s a sweet, sassy, qwirky librarian type with a dry sense of humor and a big ol’ heart for people. I have so many questions for her after her reading this book. Not because she left readers dangling but because I want to know more about this person whose life has known sadness and forgiveness.
Maybe you can’t meet J.J. or be her friend, but you can read her book. And she has graciously offered a book for free to one reader of this blog!
Want to win? Leave a comment here on the blog telling me about the best memoir you’ve read recently, or a true story that inspires you. I’ll pick a winner on Saturday, May 23.
And definitely check out J.J.’s blog in the meantime. You’ll be encouraged by her take on life.