Here are twenty-three provocative, witty stories about a woman growing up in New England in the 1950s and 60s, rife with the poignancy of painfully observed benchmarks. As one of three children of parents obsessed with their childrens’ education and upward mobility, Jewel suffered as the youngest and only female. To the author’s credit, she treats her family members with wry and gentle humor, seeing them through the lens of time with forgiveness and even love. Yet, her eye for the ironies of what it meant to grow up in a competitive environment – the consequence of her parents’ agenda and Jewel’s need to express herself as an actor and dancer – is a window into the Baby Boomer Generation.
A major source of her conflict was a father loaded with charm and bonhomie reserved for outsiders, but who had no time for his children and treated his wife with chauvinistic disdain. Finally, add to the stew two brothers a few years older, fraternal twins, also struggling to survive this bereft emotional landscape, despite getting all the positive attention, such as it was. Sadly, none of them were taught how to love and care for each other nor believe in themselves. They had to discover it on their own later in life or perish. It was every man, woman, and child for themselves.
Family secrets abounded with a predictable toll. Once Ms Davis was tipped off about Aunt Celia, a suicide whose very existence was never even acknowledged, she never let up getting at the truth. In the memoir’s bookend story, “What I Didn’t Know,” Jewel recounts this mystery with heart-breaking objectivity and generosity – as she does throughout the twenty-three stories comprising her book. Jewel: A Memoir is an engaging read and will leave the reader reflecting on their own journey to adulthood.