The story of a dynamic New York event planner who forged a new path for success in the wake of tragedy.
“When everyone else was standing around gasping, I went to my fix-it place,” writes debut memoirist Gilbert of her grace under pressure when handling last-minute snafus at galas and weddings. Yet for many years, this first female recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award lived a double life. On the outside, she wore power suits and bright red lipstick, presided icily over the all-female staff at her company, Save the Date (even earning the dubious distinction of making notorious Vogue editor Anna Wintour “look like a pussycat”) and threw lavish parties at the best Manhattan clubs. Inside, she carried shame and fear, the dual burdens of surviving a horrific, random attack. Gilbert’s recollections of that day in 1991 when she knocked on a friend’s apartment door, only to look up and see a man charging toward her with rage in his eyes, are hair-raising enough to make even the most trusting person look over her shoulder when walking down the street. This scene provides a backdrop for the many changes she experienced during the next 20 years, as she mourned the loss of her optimistic younger self and embarked on a career trajectory that allowed her to enjoy life through others’ celebrations until she could accept that she deserved her own joy. Of course, she eventually found true love and happiness, but with a series of Jane Austen–esque twists. What distinguishes Gilbert’s memoir from the inspirational survivor pack is her willingness to share the bumps along her road to recovery. The story doesn’t go predictably from devastation to bliss; she makes mistakes, suffers loss, endures heartache and punishes herself by dieting and over-exercising.
A mostly likable memoir that shows we can choose to be more than the sum of those events that are beyond our control.