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Review: Marni Jackson’s debut novel Don’t I Know You? is a show-stopper

Don’t I Know You?
Marni Jackson
Flatiron Books

The description of Canadian journalist and non-fiction author Marni Jackson's debut novel stopped me in my tracks: a novel-in-stories (my favourite) compared to the work of Melissa Bank and Miranda July? Yes, please. Even better, my fears that it couldn't possibly live up to the terrific concept – it's based on the idea that celebrities are a part of our lives even from a distance; in each of the stories, Rose McEwan encounters a different cultural icon – were unfounded. At 17, Rose has an affair with John Updike while taking a creative writing course; later, she travels to Matala, Greece, and gets advice on how to deal with her philandering boyfriend from Joni Mitchell; Bob Dylan shows up at her summer cottage and refuses to leave; she has a midlife romp with Adam Driver; Meryl Streep befriends her, but with an ulterior motive; and she even gets a facial from Gwyneth Paltrow – who is a surprisingly sympathetic character. There's not a hint of satire in these sensitively rendered stories that encompass one woman's life. And while a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required (especially during the epic canoe trip with Leonard Cohen, Taylor Swift and Karl Ove Knausgaard), Jackson's writing is so smooth that it all feels real; anything seems possible. Our relationship with celebrities is a complicated business. We don't really know them, but we feel like we do because of the way we interact with their art and the way their art interacts with big moments in our lives. Jackson helps to make sense of this by bringing celebrities into the fold of daily life. The result is magic.

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