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I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Events--the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don't

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I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag is a warm, wise, and wholly original memoir of survival, renewal, and transformation, by one of New York City’s most successful and respected special events coordinators. With her top-level events company, Save the Date, Jennifer Gilbert has worked with Fortune 500 companies, broadcast media giants, international nonprofit organizations, an I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag is a warm, wise, and wholly original memoir of survival, renewal, and transformation, by one of New York City’s most successful and respected special events coordinators. With her top-level events company, Save the Date, Jennifer Gilbert has worked with Fortune 500 companies, broadcast media giants, international nonprofit organizations, and celebrities from Oprah Winfrey to Bill Gates and beyond. Yet few of her clients or colleagues have known, until now, that Jennifer not only a self-made success: she’s also a survivor. After a random, near-fatal attack left her body in critical condition on a crowded city street, and left her with emotional wounds that would take years to heal, Jennifer embarked upon a journey to reclaim her life. This is her story, in her own words: I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag, an intimate, poignant, inspiring memoir of perseverance, rediscovery, and hope.


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I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag is a warm, wise, and wholly original memoir of survival, renewal, and transformation, by one of New York City’s most successful and respected special events coordinators. With her top-level events company, Save the Date, Jennifer Gilbert has worked with Fortune 500 companies, broadcast media giants, international nonprofit organizations, an I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag is a warm, wise, and wholly original memoir of survival, renewal, and transformation, by one of New York City’s most successful and respected special events coordinators. With her top-level events company, Save the Date, Jennifer Gilbert has worked with Fortune 500 companies, broadcast media giants, international nonprofit organizations, and celebrities from Oprah Winfrey to Bill Gates and beyond. Yet few of her clients or colleagues have known, until now, that Jennifer not only a self-made success: she’s also a survivor. After a random, near-fatal attack left her body in critical condition on a crowded city street, and left her with emotional wounds that would take years to heal, Jennifer embarked upon a journey to reclaim her life. This is her story, in her own words: I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag, an intimate, poignant, inspiring memoir of perseverance, rediscovery, and hope.

30 review for I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Events--the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don't

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amaya Swanson

    I really wanted to love this memoir. But I hated it. Simply put, it was bad, bad, bad writing. I understand the author is an event planner and not a writer. We're reading it for the story -- and the story was good enough -- but the unskilled writing was so distracting, it made me hate the book (also: editors?? Where you at???) My main issues: * There was essentially nothing but narrative. Imagine sitting across from someone at a coffee shop for three hours while they recounted their entire life i I really wanted to love this memoir. But I hated it. Simply put, it was bad, bad, bad writing. I understand the author is an event planner and not a writer. We're reading it for the story -- and the story was good enough -- but the unskilled writing was so distracting, it made me hate the book (also: editors?? Where you at???) My main issues: * There was essentially nothing but narrative. Imagine sitting across from someone at a coffee shop for three hours while they recounted their entire life in one long monologue while psychoanalyzing every move they made. That's what this book was. Oh, sorry -- she ended most chapters with a Lifetime-ready inspirational quote or thought, too. When people TRY to profound it almost never comes off as profound. * Clichés, clichés, and more clichés. When I started paying attention, I counted five on one page. * The author didn't trust the reader. Instead of letting us figure out why she broke up with a boyfriend (avoiding spoilers -- it was related to timing), she immediately told us, and then told us again when she was explaining it to the boyfriend. Wholly unnecessary. This happened constantly. Readers want to psychoanalyze the characters, we don't want to be told everything. Tell us later, after we've figured it out, so we can feel smug about being smart. Don't give it all away. Trust we're not stupid. * The author was just unlikable. She whined, she was arrogant, and her "joke" in her wedding vows was revolting (I'm sure it was meant to be funny and cute. It wasn't). I like reading about damaged people. I like reading about messed up lives and how they're fixed. Yes, Gilbert went through a horrifying ordeal. No one would ever argue with that. And yes, she overcame her attack and fixed her life. But I disliked her the entire time. (Interested in an excellent example of a victim of a violent crime who worked through her trauma and came out ahead but remained likable? Read Lucky by Alice Sebold.) This book had SO MUCH potential -- unfortunately, it fell flat immediately. If you just want a good story of overcoming a violent crime, pick it up. It does have a happy ending. I will watch the inevitable Lifetime movie. I just hoped for so much more.

  2. 4 out of 5

    JanB

    The author survived a horrific attack and I admire her ability to go on and flourish personally and professionally. There is no question she is a survivor who works incredibly hard and deserves all her success. Unfortunately, the rest of the story was a litany of how rich and fabulous and thin she is, how much men LOVE her, and a blow-by-blow account of every over-the-top fabulous event she’s master-minded and saved from disaster for the super-rich. It was tiresome and she came off as very self- The author survived a horrific attack and I admire her ability to go on and flourish personally and professionally. There is no question she is a survivor who works incredibly hard and deserves all her success. Unfortunately, the rest of the story was a litany of how rich and fabulous and thin she is, how much men LOVE her, and a blow-by-blow account of every over-the-top fabulous event she’s master-minded and saved from disaster for the super-rich. It was tiresome and she came off as very self-involved and arrogant. It's not so much what she did as how she presents it in this book. Memoirs are difficult. I hope in person she is lovely, but this book does nothing to present her as even likable. I wish I had known before I read the book that she spent part of a season on Housewives of NY because it would have told me that I probably wouldn't like it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    This book bothered me. I was hoping for more of the personal side as opposed to business. She went through something traumatic, yet I felt like this memoir was meant for me to be impressed with all the lavish parties her company has thrown. On top of that, it bothered me that at times it wasn't sequential. While I finished it and it was a very easy read, I don't fee like I enjoyed it. I was just very put off by what I viewed as the arrogance of Ms. Gilbert. This book bothered me. I was hoping for more of the personal side as opposed to business. She went through something traumatic, yet I felt like this memoir was meant for me to be impressed with all the lavish parties her company has thrown. On top of that, it bothered me that at times it wasn't sequential. While I finished it and it was a very easy read, I don't fee like I enjoyed it. I was just very put off by what I viewed as the arrogance of Ms. Gilbert.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    As a general rule, I don't read many memoirs. Far too often the author lacks objectivity and self-understanding. This is definitely not the case with Jennifer Gilbert. In fact, the clarity for which she often understood her self-sabotaging behavior was insightful and intriguing. Chances are slim that the ordinary reader is going to be randomly targeted, followed, then repeatedly stabbed with a screwdriver by an enraged stranger. On the other hand, at some point in many reader's lives, there will As a general rule, I don't read many memoirs. Far too often the author lacks objectivity and self-understanding. This is definitely not the case with Jennifer Gilbert. In fact, the clarity for which she often understood her self-sabotaging behavior was insightful and intriguing. Chances are slim that the ordinary reader is going to be randomly targeted, followed, then repeatedly stabbed with a screwdriver by an enraged stranger. On the other hand, at some point in many reader's lives, there will be a period of time where she learns that the world is not a safe and predictable place. Gilbert takes the reader on her journey of rediscovering joy and contentment after having the safety net ripped out from under her. I found the book enlightening from a human nature standpoint. Like most adults my age, I have experienced the shocking reality that through no fault of my own, decisions and actions taken by other people can have a devastating impact on me. Feeling helpless often equaled feeling hopeless. When I rebuilt my life after my experiences, I erected false walls that were supposed to keep me safer. Gilbert did the same then spent the next 20 years discovering herself and the truth about safety. It's a wonderful journey that dips into her pity party but moves on to what she did with her grief and fear. How she overcame erroneous beliefs and how she reconnected with people and relearned how to live.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dara (Dara Reads OK)

    Remember that episode of Sex and the City where Miranda, who is not usually confident with dating becomes so overly confident that it comes off as arrogance? That's the way this book felt to me. Ms. Gilbert went through a truly horrible ordeal and it's so impressive that she built a successful company and reclaimed her life. The tone of this book however, was just really off putting. I don't read many business owner type memoirs and maybe they are all "look how awesome I am" but it just rubbed m Remember that episode of Sex and the City where Miranda, who is not usually confident with dating becomes so overly confident that it comes off as arrogance? That's the way this book felt to me. Ms. Gilbert went through a truly horrible ordeal and it's so impressive that she built a successful company and reclaimed her life. The tone of this book however, was just really off putting. I don't read many business owner type memoirs and maybe they are all "look how awesome I am" but it just rubbed me the wrong way. She's been much more personable in interviews so it may just be a first time writer thing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    This author has been through a horrifying ordeal and come out whole on the other side. I could relate to a lot of what she said about adversity. But I agree with another reader that in other parts of the book her tone was arrogant and off-putting. I finished the book, but I am not sure that I would recommend it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    When Jennifer Gilbert was just 22 years old, she was attacked by a crazed man who stabbed her repeatedly with a screwdriver. He had followed her from the subway to her friend's apartment and brutalized her right outside her friend's apartment door. This event begins her memoir I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag- A Memoir of a Life Through Events- the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don't. Jennifer screamed and pounded on the door and when her friend Andrea opened the door and saw what was happening When Jennifer Gilbert was just 22 years old, she was attacked by a crazed man who stabbed her repeatedly with a screwdriver. He had followed her from the subway to her friend's apartment and brutalized her right outside her friend's apartment door. This event begins her memoir I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag- A Memoir of a Life Through Events- the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don't. Jennifer screamed and pounded on the door and when her friend Andrea opened the door and saw what was happening, Andrea panicked and closed the door. The man still came at her, and she used all her might to avoid being stabbed in the head. Andrea opened the door again and Jennifer scrambled into the apartment, with the attacker on her heels. Andrea ran into her bedroom and locked her door. Finally the man gave up and left, but Jennifer was in bad shape, losing a lot of blood. Later she found out that there were four other women cowering in their bedrooms in the apartment, but no one came to her aid. Remarkably, she didn't hold it against Andrea, trying to understand how frightened Andrea was too, but their friendship didn't last. Jennifer's parents and sister brought her home and tried to comfort her, friends and neighbors stopped by, but it didn't help. Her view of the the world and her place in it had been shattered, and now she was labeled "victim". She moved to Boston and stayed with an old boyfriend, but was stuck in a state of fear and inertia. She couldn't work, focus, or leave her apartment. Then she decided to fight back. "Where was that girl and why had she given up? I had let the attacker frighten me out of the city I loved and into a deep hole that I had dug for myself to hide in. This was not my fabulous life. This wasn't why I had fought so hard to survive that day. If I was going to be afraid to live, then that man might as well have killed me. I was lost and alone and scared, and I was headed down a road of not just feeling nothing, but being nothing." She decided to work on her career and applied for jobs in event planning; she received two offers, one from Bear Stearns and one from a small events planning company. She chose the small company because she would be getting a commission on any event she booked and because of the freedom her boss gave her to help build the business. Corporate clients were cold called, and she pestered them until they gave her a chance; she was relentless in her pursuit, finally getting Salomon Brothers as a client in 1992. Gilbert was great at her job, and her "AA-type personality" served her well. No detail was overlooked and she became well-known to caterers, party venues and hotels. She learned "not only how to function in stressful moments, but also how to make those moments less stressful for everyone else involved." I worked in marketing for a mall, and events planning was part of my job, so I very much enjoyed reading how Gilbert solved problems (a bride locked in the bathroom crying, a venue that promised it would have a liquor license by event day didn't, running out of beer at a Salomon Brothers party at Tavern on the Green) with her can-do attitude. Eventually Gilbert started her own events planning company, Save-the-Date, and because of her attitude and reputation, was successful. Her love life was another story. She had some long-term relationships, but none worked out. The only steady man in her life was her friend Bennett, who loved her and was convinced that they should be together, but Jennifer couldn't see it happening. The title of the book comes from her idea that goodie bags are over. Her description of wealthy, high society women climbing over each other to get a bag that has nothing more than "a granola bar and a bottle of shampoo" had me chortling in recognition. I've seen that happen time and again, and I'm with Jennifer on this- get rid of the goodie bags! What I took away from this book was the resiliency of the human spirit. Something horrible happened to Jennifer Gilbert, but she was determined not to let it stop her from living her life. That experience colored everything that came after, but she worked hard to overcome it and live "her fabulous life". You can let things in life defeat you or you can fight back and make a better life; it is all up to you. It's a lesson many of us can learn.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I was really excited about this book, hoping it would be about all the great parties she threw and the event disasters. The first few pages started really well. When I realized this book was really just a recounting of all the bad things that happened in her life, I was really disappointed. I am very sympathetic to what happened to her, but as much as she says she hates the pity, I feel like that's all she was asking for in this book. I didn't find it very inspirational at all, I just found it b I was really excited about this book, hoping it would be about all the great parties she threw and the event disasters. The first few pages started really well. When I realized this book was really just a recounting of all the bad things that happened in her life, I was really disappointed. I am very sympathetic to what happened to her, but as much as she says she hates the pity, I feel like that's all she was asking for in this book. I didn't find it very inspirational at all, I just found it boring. Next time: more parties, less pity *disclaimer* I won this book through the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway, but my review is 100% honest.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Kramer Bussel

    I read a lot of memoirs, and was drawn to this one because of the title. It sounded cute and fun. What I got instead was one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Jennifer Gilbert's story is one I think all women in New York City, certainly (and elsewhere!) should read, as she opens up about the attack by a stranger that almost killed her, and then how she coped with it, both in healthy and less healthy ways. She is searingly honest about how the attack affected her closest relationships, with fri I read a lot of memoirs, and was drawn to this one because of the title. It sounded cute and fun. What I got instead was one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Jennifer Gilbert's story is one I think all women in New York City, certainly (and elsewhere!) should read, as she opens up about the attack by a stranger that almost killed her, and then how she coped with it, both in healthy and less healthy ways. She is searingly honest about how the attack affected her closest relationships, with friends, family and romantic partners, how it helped drive her event planning business, Save the Date, and how it affected her process of getting pregnant. I stayed up late to finish this, utterly inspired by Gilbert's drive, her ability to, sometimes grudgingly, love herself, learn how to be a better person and let go of the shame she held onto around her attack. She goes back to topics she'd gone over earlier and gives different perspectives as she moves through major life passages, like becoming a mother. Gilbert is humble, as well as humbled by what she's been through, and while I got many lessons out of this book, the biggest one is that what you look like on the outside isn't always how you feel on the inside. I'm sure this is something everyone instinctively knows, but when you read about Gilbert's hiding of her scars, facing her attacker in court, her chasing after unavailable men until finally welcoming love (with some cold feet along the way), learning from her children that once you start on a course of action, no matter how instinctual and habitual it feels, that you can always change, was incredibly moving. Gilbert writes, "The scariest step is always the first one." In this memoir, she takes multiple first steps, both literally, and figuratively. She rebuilds herself from the inside out, over and over, and has an incredible amount of empathy, mostly for others, and eventually, for herself. While about her very personal story of building a successful business and life from a tragic event, this memoir will also speak to anyone looking to move beyond their past and learn from it and help it mold them not into someone who succeeds despite their past, but because of it. Read this book, and keep tissues handy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    After an interesting beginning, "I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag" did not at all live up to my expectations. I found myself extremely pulled into Ms. Gilbert's story at first and I was prepared to love this book. As it went on, though, I found myself not liking it very much. I honestly didn't think most of her story was that interesting. Her account of the attack was riveting, but other than that I didn't find very much to be compelling. At times I felt as though I was reading an advertisement After an interesting beginning, "I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag" did not at all live up to my expectations. I found myself extremely pulled into Ms. Gilbert's story at first and I was prepared to love this book. As it went on, though, I found myself not liking it very much. I honestly didn't think most of her story was that interesting. Her account of the attack was riveting, but other than that I didn't find very much to be compelling. At times I felt as though I was reading an advertisement for Ms. Gilbert and her company - and not a very good one. She clearly has an over-inflated opinion of herself as an event planner and I found that annoying. Every time she "rescued" an event, she did so only by doing the obvious. A venue ran out of beer, so she went to a store and bought some. A bride's tulle underskirt was missing, so she sewed some tulle underneath the wedding gown. I don't think her solutions to dilemmas were innovative or especially resourceful although she told these stories as though she has some kind of special gift. Are the examples she shared really the best she has? She also raved about an idea that she and her girlfriends came up with, an idea so good that she felt it should have been patented. I heard about this very same idea (having women invite their single male friends to a party) at least 25 years ago, so it certainly didn't originate with them. And I thought the examples she gave of her creativity and party-planning skills ranged from been-there-done-that (paper butterflies on wires) to just awful (goodie bags that were empty because "it was up to each guest to fill it with his or her own treasures"). I understand the point of the book, but I found her determination to impress her readers and advertise her business to be very distracting. She mentioned the name of her company repeatedly and wrote about how creative and resourceful she is on practically every page. I wanted things to end well for her, but I couldn't become as emotionally invested in her journey as I would have liked. Ms. Gilbert survived a devastating attack, and I give her credit for moving forward and living a good life. I wish her well.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sherri Huntley

    This was a great lesson in working through and getting past challenges and being able to move on. The author, Jennifer Gilbert, was attacked viscously when she was in her early twenties. Although she developed a very successful business she never dealt with her anger and her role as a victim as the attack. It wasn't until 20 years later she really was able to revisit the attack and move beyond it. I don't think that the only lesson is about overcoming the attack of a madman. It really shows how This was a great lesson in working through and getting past challenges and being able to move on. The author, Jennifer Gilbert, was attacked viscously when she was in her early twenties. Although she developed a very successful business she never dealt with her anger and her role as a victim as the attack. It wasn't until 20 years later she really was able to revisit the attack and move beyond it. I don't think that the only lesson is about overcoming the attack of a madman. It really shows how focus and determination combined with doing something you really love can lead to success in business. There is also a lesson on love and marriage, recognizing what is important and letting go of others (and your own) premediated expecations of what it should be. I am really happy to have won this book from Goodreads!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Ever read a description of a book and think it will be completely different than it actually is? This book was exactly like that. I read it on Amazon, and thought it would be about parties, and life events. Instead, I got a book about a woman and her traumatizing attack that basically changed her life. The parts about the attack were graphic and sad, but the rest of the book was kind of boring.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey Staiger

    What starts off as a heartfelt and traumatic story, ends with a shallow tale of Gilbert prancing around NY looking for love. She focuses her detail on unnecessary aspects of her life (like details of her dream engagement ring) as opposed to the emotional toll this took on her life.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    Jennifer Gilbert was only 22 when she was violently, randomly attacked outside a friend’s apartment in New York City. In the wake of that physical and mental assault, Gilbert was forced to reconcile the fact that someone tried to kill her with the knowledge that he didn’t succeed — and that she must find a way to move forward. Piece by piece, inch by inch. Sound like the plot of terrifying movie? Yeah. It basically was. Gilbert’s I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Event Jennifer Gilbert was only 22 when she was violently, randomly attacked outside a friend’s apartment in New York City. In the wake of that physical and mental assault, Gilbert was forced to reconcile the fact that someone tried to kill her with the knowledge that he didn’t succeed — and that she must find a way to move forward. Piece by piece, inch by inch. Sound like the plot of terrifying movie? Yeah. It basically was. Gilbert’s I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Events — the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don’t is the story of her tumultuous twenties, the aftermath of the attack and her rise to eventual success as an event planner, entrepreneur and mother. It’s filled with hardship and heartbreak, love and loss, humor and devastation — and through it all: determination. The one thing Gilbert’s attacker couldn’t steal. Here’s the thing: I don’t generally seek out survivor’s stories. Not because I’m disinterested, cold-hearted; not because I don’t feel for others and hope for their recovery. Mostly because I’m a skittish, empathetic reader with an active imagination. If I read about it in a book, it’s not a huge leap to imagine these terrible things happening to me. And when they’re written well, it’s no leap at all. Such was the way with Gilbert’s tale. I felt her cuts and bruises; I ached when she ached. Her descriptions of life pre- and post-attack were heartbreaking. I didn’t pick up the memoir with a clear understanding of what happened to her — only that she had a great adversity to overcome on her path to becoming a successful business owner. That aspect appealed to me: the one-woman show. The tough, don’t-tell-me-no female founder. It’s what prompted me to pick up I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag, and the attack hit me like a wrecking ball. I didn’t see it coming. But Gilbert’s story is not a tragedy. She’s honest about her feelings following her near-death experience: the fear and anxiety and chaos that encircled her life after 1991. She doesn’t sugarcoat things, doesn’t smooth them over. But when circumstances really start to get her down, Gilbert pulls herself up by those metaphorical bootstraps and digs in. She refuses to be a victim; she doesn’t want others to know her story. After her physical wounds heal, the details of her attack begin to fade — and aren’t dragged out for every newcomer on the scene. Her attack is not a party trick or fodder for gossip. Gilbert turns inward and gets down to business. She becomes determined to thrive. This story of her road to recovery and path to finding love was interesting and well-paced, and I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag is definitely a reminder to never take life for granted. Gilbert makes it clear that she never craves sympathy; she doesn’t want others to feel sorry for her. I believe she held this story in for as long as she could, eventually finding the strength to disclose what happened twenty years ago when her young son began his struggle with alopecia. You know, I just really liked this book. It worked for me. The author herself is erudite and sassy, confident and funny. Though obviously wealthy, she never comes across as holier-than-thou — and she doesn’t pretend to have it all figured out. She felt like “one of us,” basically — genuinely. I could see myself throwing back champagne at one of her impeccably-organized parties, dripping in diamonds, or just see us catching a latte in jeans while the kids are in school. Assuming I was, um, a mother in New York City. But you know what I mean. Fans of contemporary memoirs, stories of triumph, those interested in the event-planning business or anyone who just craves a good read will find plenty to ponder in this memoir. At just over 200 pages, I devoured it quickly and really liked Gilbert. She’s an amazingly resourceful person, a role model — and this is a book I heartily recommend.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I'm not going to finish this book. I thought it was going to be about the ups and downs of event planning and the crazy stories that result from such a career, but I'm at the halfway point and the entire book so far has actually been about how the author dealt with being violently attacked by a crazy person with a screwdriver in her early 20s. What happened to her is terrible and I'm impressed that she is so open about her ordeal, but it's simply not a good read. The writing is repetitive, dull I'm not going to finish this book. I thought it was going to be about the ups and downs of event planning and the crazy stories that result from such a career, but I'm at the halfway point and the entire book so far has actually been about how the author dealt with being violently attacked by a crazy person with a screwdriver in her early 20s. What happened to her is terrible and I'm impressed that she is so open about her ordeal, but it's simply not a good read. The writing is repetitive, dull and riddled with clichés, and she says several things that made me flat-out dislike her. There's an entire chapter devoted to how she wore bike shorts at the beach because she was so ashamed of the scars on her legs - just pages after wearing a "tiny, sparkly party dress" to flirt her way into an exclusive nightclub. Worst of all was this assessment of how terrible her life had become: Before the attack, she traveled extensively across Europe, but, "after the attack, the farthest I'd traveled was the Florida Keys." Aww, you only got to go to the Florida Keys? I live one state away and I've never been, so boo fucking hoo. (I probably wouldn't have been so put off by that statement if -- again, just pages before -- she hadn't dealt with her feelings after her attacker's trial by buying two parcels of land in the Bahamas.) Even if I was looking for a "overcoming trauma" memoir and instead of "adventures in party planning," this would not be the book I'd pick up.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie

    I almost never read memoirs (I guess I'm just not that interested in someone's personal story unless I know them personally...and even then, dicey) but this was given to me by someone who knows I'm an event planner, and I'm sure she was also taken in by the witty title. From reading the inside flap, I knew this wasn't going to be entertaining anecdotes about event planning - and I was okay with that. I have plenty of those from my real life; I don't need to read about them. And the concept that t I almost never read memoirs (I guess I'm just not that interested in someone's personal story unless I know them personally...and even then, dicey) but this was given to me by someone who knows I'm an event planner, and I'm sure she was also taken in by the witty title. From reading the inside flap, I knew this wasn't going to be entertaining anecdotes about event planning - and I was okay with that. I have plenty of those from my real life; I don't need to read about them. And the concept that this woman had survived a terrible attack was intriguing. But I can't lie - I struggled with this one. I ended up actually liking the parts where she connected her personal, emotional challenges to what was going on in her work life better than when she described those challenges themselves, or how they held back or advanced her personal life. Any time she delved too deeply into her personal life I had to forcibly keep my upchuck reflex in check. At the risk of sounding heartless: Yes. That attack was terrible. BUT. Basically she was born into a privileged upper middle class life and never really experienced anything different. She had wealth, power and money around her at all times. I guess I am heartless, but I just struggled with maintaining sympathy. So: there were parts I liked, but ultimately it's not really for me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chantal

    I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed this. It is a very honest and very real insight into this woman's life and how she was shaped by events in her life - good ones and tragic ones. I was drawn to it based on a People review because of my background in event planning, but took away so much more from it. I found Jennifer to be an inspiration and a wonderful example of moving past tragedy and not being defined by it. A quote that really stuck with me was - "Never "at least" someone else's pain I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed this. It is a very honest and very real insight into this woman's life and how she was shaped by events in her life - good ones and tragic ones. I was drawn to it based on a People review because of my background in event planning, but took away so much more from it. I found Jennifer to be an inspiration and a wonderful example of moving past tragedy and not being defined by it. A quote that really stuck with me was - "Never "at least" someone else's pain away" - That is just one if the many examples of something that the book made me think about. So often we want to try and help others but end up falling back on cliches and "at leasts"... This book gave an honest insight to many aspects of those cliches and how negative a reaction that can be. I liked how honest Jennifer was - she didn't sugar coat it. She didn't try and cover up any shortcomings of her or those around her, it was an honest narrative of her life and those moments.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Harvee

    I felt that this book was really aimed at the people Jennifer Gilbert knows, as this is such a personal reaction that readers in general may not get why they are reading this book. Nevertheless, this is an account of a brave recovery toward normalcy after painful and traumatic experiences. At the very end of the book, however, Jennifer pulls together all the pain and sorrow in her life to this conclusion: "You can't control what may happen to you in this life, but you can control who you want to I felt that this book was really aimed at the people Jennifer Gilbert knows, as this is such a personal reaction that readers in general may not get why they are reading this book. Nevertheless, this is an account of a brave recovery toward normalcy after painful and traumatic experiences. At the very end of the book, however, Jennifer pulls together all the pain and sorrow in her life to this conclusion: "You can't control what may happen to you in this life, but you can control who you want to be after it happens. "

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stacey

    If I didn't have to sleep, I would have finished this book in 1 day. I loved Jen's courageous fight and how she came out stronger on the other side. She did not feel sorry for herself and that is what kept me reading. I loved that she attempted to heal herself on her own and then gave in to therapy in both dealing with her tragedy and trying to get pregnant. Her story is remarkable and I am glad that she chose to put words on paper and share her story with everyone. If I didn't have to sleep, I would have finished this book in 1 day. I loved Jen's courageous fight and how she came out stronger on the other side. She did not feel sorry for herself and that is what kept me reading. I loved that she attempted to heal herself on her own and then gave in to therapy in both dealing with her tragedy and trying to get pregnant. Her story is remarkable and I am glad that she chose to put words on paper and share her story with everyone.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Keller

    This was definitely more than just a party planner's fun retellings of the events she organized. I felt that she was very honest and brave for talking openly about the attack and her journey afterwards. I also appreciated hearing how difficult it was for her to be consoled, because it made me think about the way I talk to someone who is going through a crisis or tragedy. It was a quick and enjoyable read. This was definitely more than just a party planner's fun retellings of the events she organized. I felt that she was very honest and brave for talking openly about the attack and her journey afterwards. I also appreciated hearing how difficult it was for her to be consoled, because it made me think about the way I talk to someone who is going through a crisis or tragedy. It was a quick and enjoyable read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shari

    This is one of my favorite books that I have ever read!!! Every woman should read this book! It tells how she overcame being a victim, struggles of life and dating, and becoming a mother. Her struggles being a mother were of things many fear or couldnt imagine having to deal with. Jennifer Gilbert is awesome!!!!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah • So Obsessed With

    Do you ever read a book that just brings to life some of your worst fears? This memoir was one of the hardest things I've ever read because it was so raw and scary. It was like a horror move come to life. Read my full review at So Obsessed With! Do you ever read a book that just brings to life some of your worst fears? This memoir was one of the hardest things I've ever read because it was so raw and scary. It was like a horror move come to life. Read my full review at So Obsessed With!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This book starts out with a gruesome attack that changes her life and you expect to go on to read of the highs and lows, laughter and tears associated with event planning and life lessons learned from them; instead it quickly turns into a record of how much money companies spent and how many times she saved the day with little focus on any event details. I wanted to like it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    You can read my take here. You can read my take here.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Fine and all, but I expected more about events and less about her life. While I appreciate her recovery from the truly horrific situation early in the book, there's just not a lot to grab you. Fine and all, but I expected more about events and less about her life. While I appreciate her recovery from the truly horrific situation early in the book, there's just not a lot to grab you.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    When I first found out about I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag, and saw that it was written by an event planner, I knew I had to read it. Part of my major was events and meeting planning and when I learned that Jennifer Gilbert is a famous event planner, it became a definite must read. Until I started reading it, and read some reviews, I had no idea it was going to be such an intense piece of writing. It definitely is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. At 22 years old, just a year out of col When I first found out about I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag, and saw that it was written by an event planner, I knew I had to read it. Part of my major was events and meeting planning and when I learned that Jennifer Gilbert is a famous event planner, it became a definite must read. Until I started reading it, and read some reviews, I had no idea it was going to be such an intense piece of writing. It definitely is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. At 22 years old, just a year out of college and ready to face the world, Jennifer Gilbert was brutally attacked by a man who stabbed her repeatedly with a screwdriver. He had followed her from the subway to her friend's apartment and tried to kill her right outside her friend's apartment door. Jennifer did survive, but because she didn’t want this traumatic event to define her, she locked it away deep down inside, threw away the key determined never to speak of it again. She launched her career as a New York City event planner, eventually opening her own event planning company called Save The Date. She buried herself in her work and was constantly designing and planning parties, weddings and events, immersing herself in other people’s joyous events. She convinced herself that she would never feel any kind of joy and happiness again. Yet it was these festive events that made her realize the time had come to face her demons, stop hiding and come back to life. Personally I cannot imagine going through such a tragic and horrific event like what Ms. Gilbert did. Several times during Ms. Gilbert’s description of the attack, I had to put the book down because I started to cry. When I think about the sad and scary times and events in my life, nothing compares to what Ms. Gilbert went through. Her descriptive writing is so powerful it felt as if I right by her side, trembling and crying out for help. Right from the beginning Jennifer is more than unequivocally open and honest about how the attack affected her and all those around her, including her family, friends and employees. She shares her journey of recovery, sometimes moving forwards and sometimes moving backwards, rebuilding herself from the inside out. It is crystal clear to see that Jennifer is a fighter and a survivor. A predominant message that I received from Jennifer’s story is that when we lessen, dismiss and sweep under the rug, negative emotions and events that one experience’s – destruction of oneself will arise. Jennifer ended up hiding, and burying deep down, the physical and emotional evidence of her attack. It took her many years of emotional healing to finally go outside without layers and layers of clothing hiding her scars. A perfect example would be going to the beach and not 100% covering up her bathing suit. Unfortunately I can relate to this because growing up my parents (who got divorced when I was nine) sometimes painted a clear picture for me to avoid talking about things. To say that this is unhealthy is an understatement, and I will be sure to never be like this with my children. I read this book in less than two days and was 100% inspired by Ms. Gilbert’s drive and dedication to learn to love herself again, and let go of the walls she built around herself. This love blossomed to one for husband and three beautiful children. Jennifer’s recovery has brought to the forefront of my mind that it is possible (quite painful though) to walk through the most incredible and horrific fears, live to tell them, and even rise above them to become that much more of a stronger person. I promise you will find yourself laughing and crying through out the book, be they both tears of joy and sorrow. This is an excellent book club pick, which all human beings can relate to, even if they have never experienced such a tragic event.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jill Elizabeth

    We’re back in the land of the memoir, and this one is a doozy. My review copy of I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag was provided courtesy of LuxuryReading.com, which also hosted the original (shorter) post of this book review on June 30, 2012 (available here). *** I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag What a clever, sassy title. Almost as clever and sassy as Jennifer Gilbert herself. The Jennifer Gilbert of the opening part of this extremely well-written, thoughtful, and deftly-handled memoir about a li We’re back in the land of the memoir, and this one is a doozy. My review copy of I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag was provided courtesy of LuxuryReading.com, which also hosted the original (shorter) post of this book review on June 30, 2012 (available here). *** I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag What a clever, sassy title. Almost as clever and sassy as Jennifer Gilbert herself. The Jennifer Gilbert of the opening part of this extremely well-written, thoughtful, and deftly-handled memoir about a life interrupted, that is. That Jennifer Gilbert is nearly lost for much of the book – and many many years – after a horrific violent crime that occurs when she is barely an adult. She is found again, mercifully and thankfully, before the book closes (that’s not really a spoiler; you’d hardly expect a memoir to not travel a full circle, now would you?), leaving us, hopefully, many more years of Jennifer’s particular brand of sass – and hopefully another foray into book-writing. This is an absolutely surreal tale. I watch the news – I know horrific things happen all the time. But until you read through the full set of details in a book like this, they don’t hit home – at least, they never did for me. I cannot even imagine a more dissonant set of life-events. From a relatively cosseted, protective-bubble of a childhood/young adulthood to a shattering burst of all-too-real reality – the kind of reality that gets highlighted on the evening news and CNN. Jennifer’s tale of survival and the redemption of her own life is an amazing one. Literally. I cannot believe anyone could travel through the tunnel she did and come out the other side with the light, the grace, and the ability to brutally and frankly self-analyze that she did. Her story is a lovely journey of self-realization and, ultimately, self-salvation – lovelier for the extreme ugliness of the event that led her to have to travel it. She deftly navigates her way through mental health issues, avoidance, recovery, self-abnegation, and the pain of missed and lost opportunities – in a voice that doesn’t beg for pity or ask for anything at all beyond the chance to be heard. The writing is clear, crisp, and focused. At times it is brutally honest – at others, simply brutal. This is a powerful piece of writing, difficult to read at times, but well worth the difficulty. If she could live through it, we can read about it – and learn something from her experience. I cannot even imagine the strength it must have taken to write a memoir like this. Kudos to you, Jennifer Gilbert. Not only have you made your voice heard, offering others the benefit of your travails, but you’ve also demonstrated a sharp story-telling ability. It’s a deft piece of writing, and I do hope we see more (on much happier notes) from you in the future…

  28. 4 out of 5

    Trish Izzo

    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 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.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    I read a short review of this in a People magazine at the gym, and it sounded intriguing so I picked it up for my Kindle. The premise of the book is simple - the author survived a terrifying random stabbing in New York City as a young woman, and dealt with the emotional and physical fallout from that for quite some time. Part of how she coped was by starting and expanding a phenomenal party-planning business, and she uses some examples of clients and events as touchstones for her journey back to I read a short review of this in a People magazine at the gym, and it sounded intriguing so I picked it up for my Kindle. The premise of the book is simple - the author survived a terrifying random stabbing in New York City as a young woman, and dealt with the emotional and physical fallout from that for quite some time. Part of how she coped was by starting and expanding a phenomenal party-planning business, and she uses some examples of clients and events as touchstones for her journey back to "normalcy." First off, I have great respect for any person who lives through the sort of situation that the author, Jennifer, managed to live through, and even more if they choose to share their story publicly as that is not an easy decision. The randomness of her attack, the details of how it happened and what her friends did during it, and how she recovered in her parents home are the stuff of nightmares for a multitude of reasons. She does a fair job of going through how she coped with the experience by controlling her body (by exercise and food) and her life (by dating minimally and throwing herself into her work), and does so clearly and simply. That part of the story is well done and I hope that telling it helped her and will help others who have also lived through stressful situations, and I certainly learned a lot from her story. However, the portion of the book after her marriage that pertains to her children somehow felt off and completely different than the first part. It felt rushed, like Jennifer wanted to cover that part of her life but didn't really want to go into too much detail about her children, yet she does do so enough that someone can easily pick them out of a crowd where she lives. It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly what bugs me about this section, and I think it's a combination of the editing, the writing itself, and the focus on herself through her children. She does cover some of her therapy/discoveries about how her past is affecting how she sees/uses her children, but at the same time it feels more like she admits that but doesn't actually change it. I liked the anecdotes about her work the most, and was hoping for more of them than was actually present in the story. I would *love* to read a similarly sized book (or bigger!) of just such stories, with or without the personal commentary attached to them. Overall, I did learn a good bit from this book and enjoyed the funny parts, but at the end it felt somewhat unsatisfying and might have ended better with her wedding, rather than continuing through to her children.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shoshanah

    When I first knew I would be reading this I was really excited. After all it was from an almost RHONYC, who was a fabulous event planner. I figured I was in for an amusing read, with stories of brides throwing fits and elaborate parties. And yes, the book did actually deliver on that. Except what I had no idea about going into it, was that at 19, Jennifer Gilbert was brutally attacked and almost died. Most of the book deals with how that impacted her and dealing with the aftermath. Her life defin When I first knew I would be reading this I was really excited. After all it was from an almost RHONYC, who was a fabulous event planner. I figured I was in for an amusing read, with stories of brides throwing fits and elaborate parties. And yes, the book did actually deliver on that. Except what I had no idea about going into it, was that at 19, Jennifer Gilbert was brutally attacked and almost died. Most of the book deals with how that impacted her and dealing with the aftermath. Her life definitely didn't go as planned, but one has to wonder, if she never had that life changing moment would she have made a point to be as successful as she became? One subplot I really identified with was the amour Jennifer tried to shield herself with. She wants so badly for others not to realize that inside she may be feeling insecure, that friends and coworkers have no idea how she's actually feeling inside. There's one point where she realizes she actually needs to say hi and make more of an attempt to be friendly to those working for it. It's not that she doesn't have friendly feelings towards them, but that she was so worried about being perceived as weak, that she had no idea how she actually came across. I think this made sense because so much of this is how I feel. I'm always so worried about how people perceive me, especially at work, that I make a point to sound confident. Except more often than not, I come off as unfriendly, even though that's never intentional. I wound up really enjoying my time with this book. Which I wouldn't necessarily have believed if I had been told that what happens to Jennifer within the first few chapters. Instead the book wound up being the perfect mix of events, personal growth, relationship drama, family life, and entrepreneurship that really resonated with me. My only complaint at the end is that I wish Jennifer Gilbert was given more of an opportunity to have her scenes aired on RHONYC (although I'm guessing with all the Bethany and Jill drama that season, they had crazier things to air). Disclosure: I was provided this book through TLC Book Tours. All opinions expressed are my own.

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