Neither a laugh-riot nor a soul-barer, Lancaster’s latest memoir fails to deliver

Oh, Jen, Jen, Jen.

You’re my writing idol. You make a living writing memoirs! Your first book taught me how to make your angry protagonist likeable (lesson: be funny)! Your children are your books (and that’s OK)! You make dogs and living in Chicagoland and personal reinvention compelling reading! You personally signed my copy of I Regret Nothing, and that’s so cool!

Regret NothingBut it’s not that funny. Yes, you are quite often “absolutely hilarious” (so says the Chicago Sun-Times in every snippet of promotion about you ever produced), and yes, you are a New York Times bestselling author (impressive, yes, lest I forget), but I Regret Nothing is not that LOL, and I feel duped.

It’s all about expectations, Jen Lancaster.

I know you’re in a tough position, having to please the hoards of fans who came to know you when you were all Bitter is the New Black, who came to love you for your bitingly acerbic humor, and yet still having to preserve a tiny sliver of privacy and self-respect. Writing memoirs is tough that way; they are better when they are more revealing, but the more real one is, the less there is to hide behind out here in the real world. I know you are feeding the machine that demands you to be true to your brand and deliver a brand new, yet not too different product season after season (I mean really, two books a year? Your work ethic is nothing if it’s not Midwestern). That can’t be easy.

But I wish I Regret Nothing could have been promoted less as “funny chick lit” and more as “introspective memoir.” Because the whole adult tricycle thing came off as inauthentic and made you look far less courageous than I know in my heart you are. I wish I could un-read that chapter. And the ending was obviously written by an author who had met her contractual word count but wasn’t quite ready to bare her soul (and I get it — because “funny chick lit” isn’t designed for soul baring). Don’t get me wrong; I saw moments of glory here. I totally related to you when I was reading about being childfree by choice and your perspective on the horrors of social media. I could definitely take more chapters like “Sorry I’m Not Sorry” about the pitfalls of international air travel, and your descriptions of Italian food sent me directly to a local Italian joint to inhale an entire plate of spaghetti and sausage (and I don’t even like pasta!).

You’re a great writer. And it’s a good memoir, Jen. But it’s not an “absolutely hilarious” one. Nor a revelation. So I’m left feeling a little bit disappointed.

I see you’re already out promoting your next book (see! a work horse!), but I’m not sure I’ll be buying a hard copy and standing in line to have you sign it. I’m watching you. Not like a stalker, I promise, but the way an ardent fan who has seen the feet of clay of her idol. I’m rooting for you to find your authentic voice again.