Small Fry, an entrancing memoir by his first child, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, will force readers to grapple with whether Jobs was not merely unmenschlike but a monster. It is not a stretch to say that if you read this book, you will never think of Jobs the same way again ... Brennan-Jobs is a deeply gifted writer. Before I read her book, I wondered if it had been ghostwritten, like many such books. But from the striking opening...it is clear that this is a work of uncanny intimacy. Her inner landscape is depicted in such exquisitely granular detail that it feels as if no one else could possibly have written it ... In the fallen world of kiss-and-tell celebrity memoirs, this may be the most beautiful, literary and devastating one ever written.
...a candid new memoir ... a book that upends expectations, delivering a masterly Silicon Valley gothic ... Brennan-Jobs's intimate depiction of his capacity for cruelty is no less astonishing than her rendering of the scrappy underbelly of computer country ... Of the book's myriad achievements, the greatest might be making that story her own.
Small Fry, a book of no small literary skill, is confused and conflicted, angry and desperate to forgive. Its central, compelling puzzle is Brennan-Jobs’s continuing need to justify not just her father’s behavior but her longing for his love. It is a mesmerizing, discomfiting reading ... Brennan-Jobs’s book seems more wounded than triumphant; it can feel like artfully sculpted scar tissue.
The author’s youthful longing for her father’s approval drives this memoir. Though Jobs’ rejections, from denying he named one of the first Apple computers after the author (he did) to telling her how stupid debate is after she wins a competition, can be difficult to read, Brennan-Jobs skillfully relays her past without judgement, staying true to her younger self. It is a testament to her fine writing and journalistic approach that her memoir never turns maudlin or gossipy. Rather than a celebrity biography, this is Brennan-Jobs’ authentic story of growing up in two very different environments, neither of which felt quite like home.
Small Fry is a memoir of uncommon grace, maturity and spare elegance. In no way a lurid account that’s out to settle scores, the book seeks only to come to a better understanding of the author’s father ... despite it all, despite Jobs’ callousness...Lisa Brennan-Jobs writes about her father without a hint of rancor ... Instead, the reader of this exquisite memoir is left with a loving, forgiving remembrance and the lasting impression of a resilient, kindhearted and wise woman who is at peace with her past.
It is a remarkable book, much more than the lurid celebrity tell-all it might have become in a less able writer’s hands ... Brennan-Jobs writes perceptively about her father’s magnetism ... Throughout the book she is happy to stress how obsessively her younger self sought Jobs’s approval ... Were Small Fry an uninterrupted stream of Jobs anecdotes, it would quickly get dull. Thankfully it isn’t. It is also a gorgeously written evocation of 1980s California ... The book also movingly explores the self-sacrifice demanded of skint single mothers ... Brennan-Jobs writes compassionately about her mother’s fragility.
But few depictions of Jobs’ unkindness carry the emotional force of that by his daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs in her new memoir, Small Fry ... Small Fry doesn’t read as a vindictive 'Daddy Dearest'-style exposé ... Here is where the peculiar power of Small Fry exerts itself; it is not a complete portrait of Steve Jobs but the reckoning of a child with a parent’s oceanic influence.
...the book is more than the missing piece of the Steve Jobs puzzle. It’s a story of a girl growing up in 1980s and ’90s California trying to fit into two very different families and not belonging in either ... Read Small Fry one way and you’ll find the account of a reluctant, sometimes outright hostile, mercurial father whose daughter is constantly reaching after the tiniest crumbs of love and attention. Read it another way, with Lisa and not Steve as the central character, and you’ll find the story of an observant child coming of age and trying to make sense of the people around her.
Small Fry is not a book you would read unless you were interested in Jobs — the writing is capable but doesn’t sparkle, the anecdotes are depressing and just pile up ... Small Fry is an excruciatingly sad read.
Brennan-Jobs doesn’t berate or make excuses for her father ... Small Fry isn’t about eliciting sympathy or seeking revenge. Instead she tries to get to the bottom of a relationship mired in awkwardness and unpredictability. In exposing her father’s more unpleasant traits, her language betrays her trepidation. Not given to drama or sentimentality, it is sparse though precise. The more shocking the anecdote, the more economical her description, though her wounds are clear ... In memoirs, as in life, one person’s fact is often another’s fiction. Brennan-Jobs doesn’t emerge smelling of roses either ... Given all she endured, who could begrudge his daughter the last word?
In Small Fry, Brennan-Jobs paints a rich portrait of her childhood, alternating between a mother barely able to support herself and a father almost pathologically distant. It’s a heartbreaking memoir, beautifully rendered ... This isn’t an attack on a distant and emotionally cold father. It’s a love story for the father that she had, flaws and all ... Brennan-Jobs’ memoir is a wise, thoughtful and ultimately loving portrayal of her father.
Ms. Brennan-Jobs’s memoir is a corrective to the hollowness of those presumptions. It’s gratifying to see her assert her authority as the owner of her narrative. Writing with enlightened panache and dry humor, she’s as keen a witness to the ambience of the Bay Area in the 1980s and 1990s...as she is to the behavior of the adults around her ... For all the emotional injury Ms. Brennan-Jobs describes in her book, there are no villains. She portrays her father as a damaged person who in turn inflicted suffering on others ... Never having felt safe in any of her father’s houses, Ms. Brennan-Jobs has built her own house in memoir form, a repository of her love and anger and mourning.
One of the wonders, reading this desperately sad but beautifully written book, is how Lisa Brennan-Jobs managed to survive at all ... The sum of such memories might have been maudlin, but Brennan-Jobs is rescued by unsentimental honesty, wry humour and literary grace. Her description of growing up strung between separated parents, who struggled to cope within their personal limitations, would be powerful on its own merits ... Unintentionally or otherwise, her book feels like an act of revenge. Brennan-Jobs may have sought merely to assert ownership of her father, good and bad, and claim her place on his stage. But that’s the trouble with memoirs: intimacies you find merit in, others misinterpret.
There’s nothing like primary sources. For all the books written about Jobs, this one means more because it’s so intimate ... The stories are so shocking that it might be easy to miss the underlying truth about this book—Lisa Brennan-Jobs is a very good writer who has somehow managed to dredge up debilitating memories without feeling sorry for herself. It’s a compelling read.
An epic, sharp coming-of-age story ... It’s rare to find a memoir from a celebrity’s child in which the writing is equal to—or exceeds—the parent’s reputation, but that is the case with Brennan-Jobs’ debut ... In a lesser writer’s hands, the narrative could have devolved into literary revenge. Instead, Brennan-Jobs offers a stunningly beautiful study of parenting that just so happens to include the co-founder of Apple. With a background in journalism, she skillfully and poignantly navigates her formative years, revealing the emotional wounds that parents can often visit upon their children ... Of course, the book also includes enough celebrity gossip to please tabloid lovers, but this is not a tell-all; it’s an exquisitely rendered story of family, love, and identity.
Bringing the reader into the heart of the child who admired Jobs’s genius, craved his love, and feared his unpredictability, Brennan-Jobs writes lucidly of happy times, as well as of her loneliness in Jobs’s spacious home where he refuses to bid her good-night. On his deathbed, his apology for the past soothes, she writes, 'like cool water on a burn.' This sincere and disquieting portrait reveals a complex father-daughter relationship.