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The Life I Really Lived

I know just enough about Jessamyn West to know that some of this novel mirrors some of her real life, but nowhere near enough to know where the line is. I do know that West moved from the plains to California, that she wrote a book that was turned into a movie and that she got to meet the movie star and spend some time with him. In this book, some similar stuff happens. The main character is a quirky loner writer with a preacher brother who gets into some trouble. She dates the movie star but then loses him in a very awkward situation. She writes sixteen books and becomes well known and famous. In the book her brother has TB and eventually dies from it. In real life West had TB and lived another 60 years.

In any case, West’s clear direct writing style, her interesting and multi-faceted female characters and her astute observations on the nature of human behavior make this book a great read, even decades after it was written. Many quotations attributed to West come from this book and it was surpising to be so familiar with the aphorisms it held while being totally unaware of the entire plot and characters.