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The Gin Closet

The Gin Closet

  • reading group guide
  • customer reviews
AS A YOUNG WOMAN, Tilly flees home for the hollow underworld of Nevada, looking for pure souls and finding nothing but bad habits. One day, after Tilly has spent nearly thirty years without a family, drinking herself to the brink of death, her niece Stella—who has been leading her own life of empty promise in New York City—arrives on the doorstep of Tilly’s desert trailer. The Gin Closet unravels the strange and powerful intimacy that forms between them. With an uncanny ear for dialogue and a witty, unflinching candor about sex, love, and power, Leslie Jamison reminds us that no matter how unexpected its turns, the life we’re given is all we have: the cruelties that unhinge us, the beauties that clarify us, the addictions that deform us, those fleeting possibilities of grace that fade as quickly as they come. The Gin Closet marks the debut of a stunning new talent in fiction.
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  • Free Press | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439157879 | 
  • February 2010
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Read an Excerpt


On Christmas I found Grandma Lucy lying on linoleum. She’d fallen. The refrigerator hummed behind her naked body like a death rattle. There were bloody tissues balled in her fists, but she was alive and speaking. “I just wanted a little yogurt,” she said. “I got a nosebleed.”

Her arms fluttered in the air, clutching for handholds, human fingers, anything. It was the first time I’d seen her whole body—her baggy ghost-skin and all the blue veins underneath.

I’d ridden a train through the brittle Connecticut winter with a wedge of gingerbread and a ham... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Gin Closet includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Leslie Jamison. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


The Gin Closet recounts the story of a family stricken by grief, loss, and addictions. Told from the perspective of two narrators—Stella, a young cosmopolite searching for meaning, and Tilly, her estranged alcoholic aunt—the story follows what happens when Stella and Tilly meet after decades of separation, and tracks the unlikely friendship that forms between them. Both women struggle with addictions—Tilly abuses alcohol and Stella is a recovering anorexic. In the midst of their hardships they come to understand what it means to love the family you’re given, no matter the cost.

Questions for Discussion

1. The novel opens with the decline and eventual death of Grandma Lucy, as told from Stella’s point of view. Stella describes her Grandmother’s declining quality of life: “You couldn’t yearn like this unless you’d been lonely for years, practicing” (5). Consider how the sickness and death of Lucy illuminates the see more



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