I’m gonna be the first to admit when I can’t get through a book. I couldn’t get through this book. Perhaps it was the pacing or the writing or the narrator (I listened to the audiobook), or the fact that I just wasn’t in the “mood” for this type of book at the time - it happens. To be transparent, I lasted for two hours, so please take my opinion with a grain of salt. A glib summary of what I heard: It’s clear that Steve Jobs was not, in his private life, the charismatic persona he put on public display, but rather an immature jerk who abandoned a family he deemed “inconvenient.” It’s also clear that his daughter and the author, Lisa, struggles with presenting her absent father as a sympathetic figure, and many incidents from her early life can only be described as traumatic.
I don’t want to use this platform to give a long-winded spiel of a book that I didn’t really like (but has been given widely positive reviews), but I will say a few things to back myself up here. I felt like Brennan Jobs was just hashing out random stories from her childhood, jumping from thought to thought with little connection, and I couldn’t get a handle on the ultimate goal of her storytelling.
I was absolutely horrified by some of the stories, and the flippancy of their retelling. A hippie family, including a 5 year old child, insisted that Lisa nurse on the adult woman in the family until she finally succumbed to their pressure. Was anything done about it? What was the outcome? Who knows? Brennan-Jobs had jumped to a new story by the time I could even wrap my head around what had just happened. In another bizarre instance, Lisa walks in on her mother squatting over the toilet, her feet up on the bowl - a technique she “learned in India”. I didn’t find the squatting bizarre, but I did find the stop-start storytelling bit jarring. No explanation, no weaving it into a larger narrative, just a bunch of random stories thrown onto a plate. Over and over I kept wondering, “why the hell is she telling us this stuff?” Ultimately I couldn’t put it together, but maybe the point was to paint a picture of her mentally-ill mother's role in Brennan-Jobs' chaotic childhood.
I do want to highlight how valuable it’s been for us at Literally to read and discuss books that the group disliked, or had mixed feelings on. Not everything’s going to please everyone, and ultimately having the group discussion can bring about so much more substance to one’s opinions! I know that for me, talking with the group about a book I disliked reading brings me joy, because I’m presented with insights I never considered and perspectives totally different from my own.
I’m all for reading things that make you uncomfortable and pushing outside your reading “mood,” but sometimes you need to listen to your gut, right? Have you read this one? I’d love to know your thoughts. Is it worth pushing through to the end? Are there any popular books out there that you just couldn’t get through? My mom always taught me to give every book the “10 page test!” Are there any books that just didn’t cut it?
Happy (and sometimes not and that's okay!) reading!