I don’t do a lot of editing on reviews. My style (obviously) is to go with my gut reaction, give it a pass over for spelling and grammar, then walk away. I am not the carefully crafted multiple draft reviewer. Therefore, reviewing Good Stuff is difficult. I feel so much compassion for Jennifer Grant the person. She has not put out a book. She has put out the version of her father she wishes the world would cosign. How do you review someone else’s reality?
Good Stuff is the way Jennifer would like to recall her childhood and her father. Bad Stuff is anything not in that very, very narrow track. Grant’s style reads as if she is talking to herself and you are permitted to listen in. She repeats herself, she jumps around in time, she reflects with oblique comments of a word or two. It’s a very stylized approach and not a fully successful one. Her dislike for breaching her privacy is obvious and yet she has written a book to be sold to the public. Her dislike for the public’s less respectful questions is also obvious, and again, she has written a book to be sold to the public. It is an absolute case of having her cake and eating it. While deliberately choosing not to explore her father’s past or put the events of her life in context Grant raises more questions than she answers. Her father appears obsessed with her, it seems to go a bit beyond the average. He creates an archive of personal effects, complete with a bank vault style safe to store them in. He tells his young daughter that she is “his type” and as she grows older marries a young woman with a bit more than a passing resemblance to her. He’s controlling, although Jennifer sees him otherwise. She cannot wear makeup in her teens, he prefers the silent treatment to conversation, imperfection is for others. There is a lot to sort through but it is left unexamined.
Grant doesn’t explore the complexity of her father’s personality, his past or the ten year custody battle for her person. She delivers a love letter to the concept of her father she has built in her mind, a concept she has every right to hold, but which a reader will find implausible and confusing. Any ‘why’ the reader may have is shied away from by the daughter. I question if Grant was ready to write a true memoir of her experiences. There is a lot of hero worship and no true introspection. Readers wanting a peek inside the gates, a reinforcement of the Grant image will be satisfied with Good Stuff. Readers wanting a true memoir balancing adult understanding with childhood impressions will come away thinking less of both Grants than they did at the start of the book.
The Grants adored each other and adored their privacy. I am not sure what purpose Good Stuff serves. It may have helped Grant to write it, it may be useful to children of much older parents who wish to compare experiences, perhaps it will be treasured by Grant’s son Cary, but Good Stuff doesn’t offer much to most who would read it.