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Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert

I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert
Published by Harper Collins ISBN 978-0-06-207594-9
Hardcover $24.99

When Jennifer Gilbert was just 22 years old, she was attacked by a crazed man who stabbed her repeatedly with a screwdriver. He had followed her from the subway to her friend's apartment and brutalized her right outside her friend's apartment door. This event begins her memoir I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag- A Memoir of a Life Through Events- the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don't.

Jennifer screamed and pounded on the door and when her friend Andrea opened the door and saw what was happening, Andrea panicked and closed the door. The man still came at her, and she used all her might to avoid being stabbed in the head.

Andrea opened the door again and Jennifer scrambled into the apartment, with the attacker on her heels. Andrea ran into her bedroom and locked her door. Finally the man gave up and left, but Jennifer was in bad shape, losing a lot of blood.

Later she found out that there were four other women cowering in their bedrooms in the apartment, but no one came to her aid. Remarkably, she didn't hold it against Andrea, trying to understand how frightened Andrea was too, but their friendship didn't last.

Jennifer's parents and sister brought her home and tried to comfort her, friends and neighbors stopped by, but it didn't help. Her view of the the world and her place in it had been shattered, and now she was labeled "victim".

She moved to Boston and stayed with an old boyfriend, but was stuck in a state of fear and inertia. She couldn't work, focus, or leave her apartment. Then she decided to fight back.
"Where was that girl and why had she given up? I had let the attacker frighten me out of the city I loved and into a deep hole that I had dug for myself to hide in. This was not my fabulous life. This wasn't why I had fought so hard to survive that day. If I was going to be afraid to live, then that man might as well have killed me. I was lost and alone and scared, and I was headed down a road of not just feeling nothing, but being nothing."
She decided to work on her career and applied for jobs in event planning; she received two offers, one from Bear Stearns and one from a small events planning company. She chose the small company because she would be getting a commission on any event she booked and because of the freedom her boss gave her to help build the business.

Corporate clients were cold called, and she pestered them until they gave her a chance; she was relentless in her pursuit, finally getting Salomon Brothers as a client in 1992. Gilbert was great at her job, and her "AA-type personality" served her well. No detail was overlooked and she became well-known to caterers, party venues and hotels.

She learned "not only how to function in stressful moments, but also how to make those moments less stressful for everyone else involved." I worked in marketing for a mall, and events planning was part of my job, so I very much enjoyed reading how Gilbert solved problems (a bride locked in the bathroom crying, a venue that promised it would have a liquor license by event day didn't, running out of beer at a Salomon Brothers party at Tavern on the Green) with her can-do attitude.

Eventually Gilbert started her own events planning company, Save-the-Date, and because of her attitude and reputation, was successful. Her love life was another story. She had some long-term relationships, but none worked out. The only steady man in her life was her friend Bennett, who loved her and was convinced that they should be together, but Jennifer couldn't see it happening.

The title of the book comes from her idea that goodie bags are over. Her description of wealthy, high society women climbing over each other to get a bag that has nothing more than "a granola bar and a bottle of shampoo" had me chortling in recognition. I've seen that happen time and again, and I'm with Jennifer on this- get rid of the goodie bags!

What I took away from this book was the resiliency of the human spirit. Something horrible happened to Jennifer Gilbert, but she was determined not to let it stop her from living her life. That experience colored everything that came after, but she worked hard to overcome it and live "her fabulous life". You can let things in life defeat you or you can fight back and make a better life; it is all up to you. It's a lesson many of us can learn.

rating 4 of 5

1 comment:

  1. Wow - what a story. I had not heard about this one - sounds like a great read. Thanks!