AS A YOUNG WOMAN, Tilly flees home for the hollow underworld of Nevada, looking for pure souls and finding nothing but bad habits. One day, after Tilly has spent nearly thirty years without a family, drinking herself to the brink of death, her niece Stella—who has been leading her own life of empty promise in New York City—arrives on the doorstep of Tilly’s desert trailer. The Gin Closet unravels the strange and powerful intimacy that forms between them. With an uncanny ear for dialogue and a witty, unflinching candor about sex, love, and power, Leslie Jamison reminds us that no matter how unexpected its turns, the life we’re given is all we have: the cruelties that unhinge us, the beauties that clarify us, the addictions that deform us, those fleeting possibilities of grace that fade as quickly as they come. The Gin Closet marks the debut of a stunning new talent in fiction.
Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. One of the San Francisco Chronicle's Best Books of 2010.
“Starred Review. Jamison's beautifully written debut follows independent young New Yorker Stella and her estranged aunt Tilly as they form some version of a family… The relationship between Stella and Tilly is compelling…what truly drives the novel is Jamison's gorgeous prose.”
“First-time novelist Jamison portrays three generations of ‘wounded women’ in an exquisite blues of a novel…Narrating by turns in each lonely woman’s voice, Jamison creates emotionally complex scenes of harsh revelation in language as scorching as gin…Jamison’s novel of solitary confinement within one’s pain is hauntingly beautiful.”
San Francisco Chronicle:
"The Gin Closet" is no escapist fantasy but a slow and steady heartbreak. It is also exquisitely beautiful. Jamison writes like a poet, her imagery breathtaking, her sentences unfurling unpredictably, to the novel's devastating end… "The Gin Closet" is a classical tragedy. The characters are doomed to repeat their mistakes, haunted by the past, unable to save themselves or each other. But while the plot precludes redemption, language is a saving grace both for the novel and in their lives. We may not be able to change, but at least we can tell our stories, finding flashes of beauty even in the ugliest things.”
“Life is raw in Leslie Jamison’s astonishing first novel, a story of love and ruin in the American West…it is a book that finds beauty in dysfunction — and, in doing so, gives us one of the truest and most devastating depictions of alcoholism to be had in some time…“The Gin Closet” is nothing short of a tour de force.”
A “keenly felt” exploration of “love’s more complex geometries.”
New Haven Advocate:
“Jamison's voice is resoundingly unique, her prose both raw and precise, fully attuned to poetry without ever rescinding an energetic narrative impulse… Jamison trusts the consciousness of her characters and her readers. At the very points a lesser writer would stumble, lurch and turn away, she stands still, stares and turns our faces to stare along with her… Of particular importance is the oblique beauty and taut sensuality of Jamison's language and imagery… Jamison is not just marching to the beat of her own drum. She is banging out a brutal, ecstatic symphony upon it. The Gin Closet dares readers to understand how and why we abrade our bodies, ourselves, to manifest the incommunicable to one another.”
Time Out New York:
“Jamison is no coward…she writes courageously about disease, sex and perils of the flesh without flinching… she’ll become a strong voice in contemporary fiction.”