I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag

by 5 Minutes for Books

Jennifer Gilbert seemed to have it all – an affluent upbringing, a great education followed by post-college travel to Europe, and plans to take the Manhattan business world by storm upon her return. Then suddenly, all of her dreams were interrupted by a vicious attack that left her almost dead from multiple stab wounds all over her body.

This attack, and the years that followed, are the subject of her book, I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Events–the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don’t. As her body recovers, Jennifer suffers from night terrors and ongoing phobias that don’t go away even when her attacker is found and imprisoned to await trial. She tries to escape her new reality by moving to Boston, but soon decides that she must return to New York and prove to herself and everyone else that she can make it. Unfortunately, the only way she can do this is to stuff all the negative emotions down deep and present herself as a whole new Jen.

Wearing what she calls her “Jen suit,” she takes a job as an event planner and immerses herself into her work, revolutionizing the business model in a way that propels her to the top of the heap and eventually leads her to start her own company. After running as hard as she can in the other direction for three years, however, the time comes when she must testify against her attacker at trial. Finally, Jen realizes that she has to deal with her ordeal and begins to see a therapist who helps her face her darkest fears and start the emotional healing process.

Throughout the book, Jennifer is candidly open and honest about how she – and those around her – dealt with her pain. We see the forward strides as well as the steps backwards as she does her best to hold herself together and regain her joy and peace in her life. In addition to her insights about her personal journey and close relationships, we also see how she brings the lessons she has learned to her professional life as an event planner.

While Jennifer’s story centers around a painful experience, her writing is filled with the determination and hopefulness that she has fought to recover in her life. I found myself constantly reaching for a pen to underline or mark some of the gems like these:

  • Everything in life is relative, and…perspective only comes after the crisis.
  • Never “at least” someone else’s pain away. Let them have it, feel it, and then try to alleviate it.
  • If you spend your time measuring your reality against your fantasy, you’re inevitably going to lose the joy of just being in that moment.

I highly recommend I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag; you won’t be sorry to have opened yourself up to this testimony to the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Definitely a 5-Star Read (check out our page for the rest of the books that we rate the best of the best).

We have a copy to give away to one of you! Just leave a comment if you’d like to win. We will announce the giveaway here in this column on May 21.

The winner of Help Wanted: Moms Raising Daughters is #68 Shirley Pebbles.

Trish would like to thank HarperCollins for the opportunity to review this book. You can find Trish seeking her own life lessons at her blog, In So Many Words.



Email Author    |    Website About 5 Minutes for Books

5 Minutes for Books is the 5 Minutes for Mom sister site devoted to reviewing books for adults -- fiction, memoir, and nonfiction -- and kids of all ages. Managed by Jennifer Donovan, other contributors are Dawn, Lauren, Nancy, and Elizabeth. Follow us @5M4B on twitter and subscribe to our feed or like us on Facebook so you don't miss a thing!

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Wendy May 7, 2012 at 2:44 am

What an amazing story to tell and share with others. It is often through our pain that life’s greatest blessings come, although I would rather it be some other way.

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2 Don May 7, 2012 at 9:14 am

The book sounds really good, just goes to show you, never take life for granted.

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3 samantha w May 7, 2012 at 11:25 am

This sounds really good.

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4 Stacie Fontinell May 7, 2012 at 2:18 pm

sounds like a good read!

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5 connie black May 7, 2012 at 3:06 pm

This looks like a great read…but will probably have to read it alone.

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6 Cindy Brooks May 7, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Sounds like an amazing story with a lot of insight!
someluckydog at gmail dot com

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7 gidget May 7, 2012 at 4:43 pm

this looks so good, fingers crossed I’d really love to win this one!

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8 Patty May 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm

This sounds like a really good book! I can’t wait to read it.

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9 Margaret May 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm

This sounds like a great story! I’d love to read it!

Margaret
singitm(at)hotmail(dot)com

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10 Dawn May 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Sounds really good. Can’t wait to read

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11 Kim May 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm

What an inspirational story! I’d love to read it.

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12 Liz May 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Dialogue is so needed. Prayers for Jennifer.

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13 sindy murray May 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I would be interested in reading this book!

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14 Joy May 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Wow – sounds like a powerful book!

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15 Jennifer May 7, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Sounds really interesting. Thanks for the opportunity.

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16 Ju P. May 7, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Sounds like an interesting book!

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17 Jessica T May 8, 2012 at 1:54 am

I’d love to read this! ThankS!

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18 Kayo May 8, 2012 at 7:56 am

I’d love to read this one! Thanks for the opportunity.

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19 latanya May 8, 2012 at 8:41 am

I would like to win.

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20 Sharyl May 8, 2012 at 9:46 am

I would love to read this book.

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21 Julie May 8, 2012 at 10:47 am

This sounds really good!

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22 Idaho Jill May 8, 2012 at 11:57 am

This sounds fascinating – love books about how strong the human spirit is!

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23 Kel H May 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm

This sound like a very empowering book to read and a great story of recovery –thanks for the chance to win a copy.

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24 riTa May 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Love true life stories of overcomers!

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25 Hailey L May 8, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I would love to win!

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26 kelly willis May 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm

i love to read and this book is a good book from what i have heard about it
kellycurtis@rocketmail.com

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27 Beth C May 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I’d really enjoy reading this. thanks!
pbclark(at)netins(dot)net

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28 Stephanie May 8, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Wow, what a powerful story!

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29 Linda Kish May 8, 2012 at 11:25 pm

This sounds like a very interesting story. One that I would love to read.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

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30 bobby May 9, 2012 at 2:53 am

my wife would like this

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31 Kathryn Crowder May 9, 2012 at 7:49 am

I’ve just come upon your website and though I’m not a mom I spent quite a bit of time reading your reviews. I got here by way of following up on a book “A Friend Like Henry” which addresses the beautiful partnership between a boy with autism and a dog named Henry. Thanks for a glimpse into your book reviews. THis seems like a fantastic website!

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32 Staci A May 9, 2012 at 10:57 am

I would love to read this. It looks like a great book!

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33 June May 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Another terrific book to read.

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34 Krista May 10, 2012 at 12:52 am

wow, this looks like it would be intense…

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35 Garrett May 11, 2012 at 8:05 am

Would really like to read.

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36 Chuck May 11, 2012 at 8:55 am

I know my wife would really enjoy this suspenseful book.

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37 Angela E. May 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm

This book sounds like it’s going to be a winner.

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38 Jennifer O. May 12, 2012 at 5:19 pm

This sound slike a wonderful read! Thanks for holding the giveaway.

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39 angie May 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm

this book could be real useful
shopannies@yahoo.com

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40 Mama Zen May 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I’d love to win this!

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41 Chuck May 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Great book, thanks for another good giveaway.

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42 Karen May 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I just read the 1st chapter on Bookperk and would love to read the rest!

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43 Tia May 15, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I would love to win!

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44 Emily Patterson May 15, 2012 at 9:42 pm

I would love to win this book :-)

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45 jill May 15, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Sounds intriguing. Hope I win!!

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46 Lori D. May 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Sounds very interesting, thanks

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47 karenk May 17, 2012 at 6:52 am

would enjoy reading this inspirational story…thanks for the chance :)

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48 Van May 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Sure to be a good one.

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49 Jeff May 17, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Sounds like an amazing book.

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50 Jamie May 19, 2012 at 1:26 am

This sounds very interesting. I’m going to go look Jennifer Gilbert up.

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