Just a Tad Too Bitter for My Taste

Several years ago while browsing the shelves of a Borders (Yep, that tells you how long ago it was) I was hooked by Jen Lancaster's Bitter is the New Black cover art. I thought the extra long subtitle was clever. I thought Lancaster's literary voice seemed snarky and engaging. I was convinced her book would be pee-your-pants funny. So I wrote down the title and carried it around with me for years.

In the midst of the great purge before our move, I took several loads of books to a local used book store. Against type and in the name of space saving, I accepted the cash instead of the vastly larger trade value for my books. Luckily for me, however, there were a few dollars left that I had to take in trade. With my credit in hand I wandered over to the bargain shelf determined to make the most of my trade dollars. There waiting for me was the familiar cover art of Lancaster's Bitter is the New Black. I picked up the book, and discovered that Lancaster is a Chicago native. I knew at that moment it was finally time to read this memoir.

Turns out, after the first chapter I nearly put the book down. Lancaster's literary persona was insufferable. Self absorbed and vapid didn't even begin to do her shallow, label dropping, inane prose justice. In truth I kept reading in anticipation of cheering on the hardship she was about to face. Horrible, right? How could I help it, Lancaster wrote a character that begged to be disliked.

Having made it through to the end, I'm ultimately glad I didn't put it down early. There was a modicum of growth as her story unfolded. Thankfully by the book's last chapters her grating (and often unoriginal) sense of humor became less off-putting and more endearing. The more I read the more I began to hope that perhaps she was just as unimpressed with the Jen who appeared in the early chapters as I was.

Honestly, I wouldn't recommend this book to other readers. But, Lancaster's transformation throughout the memoir was significant enough to make me curious about her follow up books.

Have you read any of Jen Lancaster's memoirs? What did you think?