- The idea of a memoir named “Tammyland” fascinated me.
Summary from GoodReads:
Gretchen Waters is most famous for her book Tammyland-a “honky-tonk Eat, Pray, Love,” a memoir about her divorce and her admiration for Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton. When Gretchen dies falling on a set of stone steps outside of a library, everyone thinks it was an accident or a botched mugging. Jamie, Gretchen’s best friend from college, certainly has no reason to suspect foul play. That is, until she becomes Gretchen’s literary executor. Gretchen’s latest manuscript is much darker than Tammyland-ostensibly about her favorite classic male country singers, it’s really about a murder in her family that haunted her childhood. From beyond the grave, Gretchen’s writing opens up a sinister new world, and suddenly, Gretchen’s death seems suspicious-and then Jamie finds herself in danger as well…
I am seriously confused on how to rate and review Miss Me When I’m Gone by Emily Arsenault. Because I loved sections of the book with a deep, abiding love (Tammy, Dolly, Loretta – how could you not if you were any type of old country fan?) and could not stand other sections of the book.
Let me explain via a quick route through a summary. In Miss Me When I’m Gone, we never get to meet “face to face” Gretchen, instead we get to know her through her memoir “Tammyland,” and the investigation of her best friend, Jamie, who has been asked to be her “literary executor.” There is very little we get to actually know about Jamie, aside from some superficial facts, as the book is focused mainly on Gretchen and the follow-up to her memoir she’d been working on when she died.
Miss Me When I’m Gone is in three sections that take turns throughout the course of the book. There are excerpts from Tammyland, letters and interviews by Gretchen as read by Jamie, and finally Jamie’s narrative as she moves along, following Gretchen’s investigations. I was thrilled and engrossed by the Tammyland sections, interested in the letters and interviews left behind, and thoroughly “meh” about any portion of the story written in Jamie’s voice. Yup, I think that sums that up.
I found myself wishing that this book had just been a fictional memoir – a Tammyland written from Gretchen’s voice alone. By the way, comparing it as a “honky-tonk Eat, Pray, Love” is an insult to the fantastic memoir-writings in this book. I felt as if the entire investigation/second memoir was used just as a tool to get the Tammyland writings out – because they were so much better than everything else. It really is a shame, because were there such a memoir out there I can tell you right now, I’d be hitting the purchase button.
So my final rating will waver somewhere in the middle. Five stars I give to Tammyland, and 1 1/2 to Jamie’s story. I’d be interested to see if anyone else felt the same.
About the Author
I haven’t had a terribly interesting life, so I won’t share too many details. But the highlights include:
• When I was a preschooler and a kindergartner, I had a lazy eye and I was Connecticut’s “Miss Prevent Blindness,” appearing on pamphlets and television urging parents to get their kids’ eyes checked. I wore an eye patch and clutched a blonde doll wearing a similar patch. I imagine it was all rather maudlin, but at the time I wouldn’t have known that word.
• I wrote my first novel when I was in fifth grade. It was over a hundred pages and took me the whole school year to write. (It was about five girls at a summer camp. I’d never been to a summer camp, but had always wanted to attend one.) When I was all finished, I turned back to the first page, eager to read it all from the beginning. I was horrified at how bad it was.
• At age thirteen, I got to go to a real sleepaway camp. It was nothing like the book I had written.
• I studied philosophy in college. So did my husband. We met in a Hegel class, which is awfully romantic.
• I worked as an editorial assistant at Merriam-Webster from 1998-2002, and got to help write definitions for their dictionaries.
• My husband and I served in the Peace Corps together, working in rural South Africa. I miss Losasaneng, miss many of the people we met there, and dream about it often.
• I am now working on my third novel. It is tentatively titled Just Someone I Used to Know, named after and old song Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton used to sing together
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