Jonna Ivin kept me sitting on the edge of my chair more than half the night with her memoir, Will Love for Crumbs. I don't recall the last memoir I read that had such tension. The first suspense-filled pages incited intense curiosity. Fortunately she soon doubled back and began filling in the blanks. It didn't take long to return to suspense mode as she headed for Beaumont, Texas with a Red Cross hurricane relief team. It was there that she met Chris, the man of her dreams, or so she devoutly hoped and hardly dared believe.
"I caught his eye as I passed by. It was one of those rare movie moments when one holds a stranger's look long after it would normally be appropriate. I had no idea who he was or what he was doing there, but my intuition told me that this wasn't the last time I would see him." That wasn't her only intuition about him, and they were all on target. The relationship built through an ongoing series of climaxes until, well, I don't want to spoil it for you. Ivin's blunt honesty and vivid language ensure there is never a dull moment in this fast-paced tale that alternates between laughter and tears.
They say that both reading and solving puzzles are good for your brain. This book covers both bases, interweaving action and reflection. Ivin can't make sense of her own life until she makes sense of her alcoholic mother's—the mother who married six times and moved so often that by the time records from their previous school arrived at a new one, Ivin and her sister had often moved yet again. Tense chapters covering her relationship with Chris alternate with flashback scenes with further back story. These flashbacks were triggered by observations along the road on the flight from Arkansas to Oregon she began in the first chapter. As they unfold, she recalls events of her mother's death and pieces together insights into what led to her mother's uncontrolled drinking. Readers are left to fit that puzzle together along with Ivin. I'll admit that at times I was challenged to make sense of it, but, although there are a few loose ends, it did come together in the end.
Students of memoir will find much food for thought in Ivin's process and structure. Within her two-track approach to the story, she strikes a balance between disclosure and discretion, telling enough to convey the sense of the story while protecting privacy and leaving readers hungry for just a little more detail. For me, the end effect was a broad outline that encouraged me to fill in blanks with my own reflections, resulting in an intensely personal reading experience—a remarkable outcome, given the disparities in our lives. I look forward to future volumes of her work.
Jonna Ivin is a playwright and screenwriter. Presently she is resting her head in Vancouver, Washington, cuddling with pugs and waiting to see where the next journey will take her. Jonna is currently working a screen adaptation of Will Love For Crumbs. Visit her website.
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