Tin House Galley Club: The Glass Eye

Tin House Staff

This summer, we invited a select group of early readers to receive advance copies of The Glass Eye in exchange for their honest responses. As summer turned to fall, we asked for their thoughts.

The Glass Eye captures a daughter’s love for her father, her near-unraveling after his death, and the messy intersections of grief and mental illness. It’s a book without easy answers or multiple-choice solutions. So when the time came to ask for our Galley Club members’ thoughts, we simply sent around a series of open-ended questions and watched what happened next. Here’s a snapshot, real first names used throughout.

In four words or less, how would you describe Jeannie’s writing style?

“Self-reflective, honest, and real.” —Amy

“Mesmerizing!” —Jenny

“Balls to the wall.” —Chandra

“Circular, internal, cerebral.” —Jenny

“Tormented, visceral.” —Nafissa

“Lucid, clear, poetic, familiar.” —Nora

“Frank, abrupt, introspective, and raw.” —Taylor

“Fresh, searching, insightful, revealing.” —Traci

“Reminiscent of youthful wandering.” —Stephanie

Did you find yourself identifying with Jeannie at any point?

“Absolutely: I think I recognized her most in the parts when she is not believed, where she doubts her grip on reality, which is so much a part of growing up as a woman: not being believed when you complain you were assaulted by a person in an authority position; having a professor turn your life drama into some kind of word problem for the class.” —Nora

“Definitely. I have mental illness in my family, though nothing as difficult as what Jeannie has gone through. Also, the way the books deals with memory really, really struck me as relatable for basically anyone.” —Jenny

“Absolutely. I suffer from mental illness myself, and though it is hard for each of us that are affected with it, it is comforting to know you are not alone.”—Jason

“I definitely identified with the grief Jeannie was experiencing and how it can swallow you whole. It’s like being the walking wounded. You go about your daily life and you look normal on the outside, but inside you’re screaming because no one understands that you are broken by your loss and will never be the same again.” —Jessica

“The reason I asked to be on the galley team is because I’m exploring and processing grief myself. Jeannie’s deepest grieving moments felt like a kick in the chest, it my reaction was to feel so much compassion for her. I can’t imagine processing all this grief at such a young age.” —Barbara

Which recurring image or concept intrigued you the most?

“Dad’s glass eye. It is both a very evocative image and a tangible stronghold.” —Chandra

“The phone calls to mom to ask if something was being remembered correctly were some of the most poignant moments in the book for me.” —Stephanie

“The Memory Game.” —Sarah

“The repetition of Jeannie’s name being called, either in her mind or by other characters.” —Taylor

“i + eye = I.” —Amy

In four words or less, how would you describe Jeannie’s father?

“Involved, loving, attentive, present.” —Carla

“Vulnerable, wounded, traditional, devoted.” —Traci

“Obsessive, wounded, controlling, loving.” —Jessica

“Loving, complex, atmospheric, magnanimous.” —Nora

What do you think of the book’s organization into four binders—Dad, Mom, Jeanne, and Mental Illness?

“I loved it. I feel like the structure and the style of the book were as important as the content in relaying the story to the reader. I say this as someone who isn’t into ‘experimental’ styles a lot, but here, it worked and only added to the work instead of distracting from it.”—Jenny

“While this writing format is used by other authors successfully, as well, I credit Jeannie with being the first to give me the mental imagery of actually pulling a binder off the shelf to open it for reference each time the viewpoint changed. I found the structure helpful while reading, but also feel it lent an extra layer of potency to the “mental illness” viewpoint.” —Traci

“The binders were a clever narrative choice and a helpful, reader-friendly roadmap. . . . With them, I trusted that I was in expert hands.” —Chandra

“I think it would have held up just as well without feeling the need to categorize each chapter.” —Ashley

“Structure is definitely a strength for this memoir, allowing the reader to be pulled through time in a way that is clear while still being disordered, like memories themselves.” —Taylor

“I loved this. It felt like a wave. [The binders] kept coming back to one another and filtering through each other’s lenses. I was amazed.” —Cassie

By book’s end, do you think Jeannie is on a path to recovery? Why or why not?

“Absolutely, she successfully wrote an impactful book, didn’t she? She is also able to maintain some wry, narrative distance from the trauma. . . .  Am I alone in noting the growing groundswell of subtle humor that starts to build toward the end?” —Chandra

“Yes, but I also think she recognizes that it’s going to be a constant battle for the rest of her life.” —Amy

“Yes, in that she is able to tell her story, but I like that there’s no tidy bow. Mental illness is chronic and lifelong, and it would be unrealistic to represent it as anything else.” —Nafissa

“Yes, I felt that she had asked for help, accepted treatment and surrounded herself with solid support.” —Barbara

“Definitely. She has challenges ahead, BUT this book could’ve been a huge downer and it wasn’t because of Jeannie’s RESILIENCY.” —Jenny

Who/what do you think best helped Jeannie cope with her grief?

“Writing.” —Carla

“Writing and the binders.” —Yadi

“Finally letting go of writing and compiling the binders/the memoir itself. Letting go of the story and living her present life.” —Taylor

“Her mother, actually. I think her mom was wonderful. And real.” —Nora

“Primarily, Jeannie. She was a member of her own medical team all along. Her self-awareness and internal chatter allowed her to put her thoughts out in front of her for processing.” —Traci

How did you feel when you finished reading The Glass Eye?

“Grateful.” —Nora

“I felt amazed at the writing and very impressed by how self-reflective and honest [Jeannie] was. I’ve never read a book where I felt like I had a stronger sense of the narrator. I really felt like I was inside her head, and have a much better sense of what it might be like to live with mental illness.”  —Amy

“Exposed, happy, full of hope and a better understanding of mental health.” —Jason

“Emotionally spent—in a good way.” —Nafissa

“I read it in one sitting and then promptly called my dad for a “no reason, just wanted to hear your voice” chat.” —Ashley

“I felt overwhelmed with emotion but in a good way.” —Tim

“Touched. Emotional. Excited for more of Jeannie’s writing.” —Yadi

“Like I wanted to tell everyone about this book, even people wouldn’t pick up a book like this normally.” —Jenny

If you liked The Glass Eye, you’ll also like…

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

The Other Side by Lacy Johnson

The Liar’s Club by Mary Carr

All At Sea by Decca Aitkenhead

Ghost Songs by Regina McBride

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Widow by Michelle Latiolais

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Thanks to our wonderful Galley Club members for diving into 
The Glass Eye and for sharing their literary expertise! Interested in being part of Galley Club? We’ll announce the next title—and instructions for how to join—on our Facebook and Instagram accounts later this fall.