“Gimme the Familiars” by Jessica Mehta

Jessica Mehta
Musehick Publications (2019)
ISBN 9781944864491
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau for Reader Views (1/2020)

“Gimme the Familiars” by Jessica Mehta is a blend of reimagined mythology in short story format and memoir. Told in alternating chapters, each short story leads into the next piece of memoir, connecting each section of the book into one large, interwoven tapestry of story.

The concept itself of “Gimme the Familiars” is interesting. The way Mehta uses the short stories to lead into different parts of the memoir creates an unusual frame and makes a unique use of foreshadowing that grabs the audience’s attention from the beginning. It’s a strong start to the book and is an effective tool throughout it. Spotting the parallels between the sections is one of the most enjoyable parts of this piece.

Mehta’s writing is straightforward and concise. She explores all the awkward and difficult experiences a woman goes through when discovering her sexuality without shying away from anything. “Gimme the Familiars” places a large emphasis on sex and the way that women are treated by men. Mehta dives into the topic unabashedly and avoids glorifying any of the more uncomfortable details.

“Gimme the Familiars” does have some drawbacks. It’s difficult to keep track of the characters outside of the short stories and mythology recreations. Many of them are introduced all at once and then forgotten about in the next chapter. If a character is mentioned again, even in an important role, it’s several chapters down the road in a vague way. Recalling the numerous characters, many of which lack distinct traits or any identifiers, is frustrating. The few details readers are given about them do not endear any of the characters to the audience.

The narrator herself is significantly more memorable. Justine is a woman who is lost. She wanders through life, searching for meaning. For half of “Gimme the Familiars,” the readers follow her as she navigates many different relationships with various different men. Most of the relationships are abusive and end badly. It’s difficult to understand how readers are meant to feel about her, because while her situation garners sympathy, she is written in a way that makes her come across as deeply unlikable. Her story is regrettable and sad, but the reader doesn’t know whether they should be rooting for her or not.

“Gimme the Familiars” is an unusual book that combines some of the best elements of storytelling with a confusing set of characters. It’s a quick read that will keep Mehta’s audience entertained.

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