I’ve been a big fan of Jewel over the years, so I was excited when I learned that she was writing a memoir in addition to releasing a new album. Never Broken is a raw and candid look at Jewel’s life: growing up in Alaska with an abusive father and absent mother, being homeless and living in her car, becoming successful in the music industry, ending the toxic relationship with her mother, getting married, becoming a mother, divorcing her husband, and finally, finding herself in a place of peace and hopefulness. There’s a lot of information in this book, much of it heavy. But it’s definitely worth reading about because Jewel is an amazing woman.
And I’m still continuing the journey, relearning how to be truly safe in the world, and it isn’t what I thought. It’s not by avoiding pain in life–that’s impossible–it’s by knowing that safety is in vulnerability, not in armor.
In this book, the narrative of Jewel’s life story is interspersed with her poetry and various song lyrics from her albums, both past and present. Through a combination of reading and watching interviews, I had known that Jewel had a rough upbringing, but prior to reading this memoir, I hadn’t realized the extent. Her mother left when Jewel was eight, only to flit in and out through various stages of Jewel’s childhood and then conveniently reappear after she signed her record deal. Her father was abusive, though they have since reconciled and now have a functional relationship. But her relationship with her mother was an extremely unhealthy one.
I knew I had to start practicing something I had never been given or shown in my family. Kindness. Patience. Tolerance.
Jewel moved out on her own when she was 15 and eventually became homeless, living in her car for a time before she was discovered in San Diego and signed a record contract. Sometime after she became hugely successful, she discovered that her mother–who was her manager at the time–had squandered Jewel’s money. She found herself not only cleaned out financially, but also in debt. She made the decision to sever all ties with her mother, both in business as well as her personal life. Eventually, she recovered from the financial mess that her mother had left her, but to this day she no longer has contact with her.
But to look at life with an open heart, take it on the chin and say I am more yielding, I am more open, takes real courage.
Despite the struggles throughout her life, Jewel shares some good memories in this book. She tells about how she began performing with her father at the young age of eight in bars and clubs. Even though her relationship with her father was volatile when she was a child, he taught her about music and it’s this early start that instilled a confidence and stage presence that’s obvious when she performs today. She also tells the story of her family, about how her grandparents settled on an Alaskan homestead that lacked many modern conveniences that are so easily taken for granted. It was hard living, to be sure. But it also taught her a sense of character and strength from an early age.
Throughout her times of struggle, there were people in Jewel’s life who reached out to her and showed her kindness. She calls these people her angels. For every negative moment that she could resent, there’s another positive memory about someone who helped her along the way, for which she is still grateful.
Jewel also shares some details about her relationship with Ty Murray. Even though they are now divorced, it’s clear that they have their son’s best interests in mind. Jewel is respectful when mentioning him and she does so with the acknowledgment that her son might read this book one day. She definitely comes across as a loving mother, which is amazing considering the upbringing that she had.
Reality wins, and I’d rather see the truth than stay in love with a fantasy.
It’s also clear that Jewel has spent a lot of time working on making herself a better human being. Her maturity is revealed through her sense of empathy and focus on forgiveness. The end of the book feels almost like a self-help guide, in which she discusses the strategies that have helped her break the cycle of abuse in her family. She also shares the techniques–some psychological, some spiritual–that have made her a better person overall.
Never Broken is a surprisingly candid, sincere memoir from someone who has lived a complicated and sometimes painful life. But ultimately, it’s a life that’s now filled with joy from being a mother and from being secure in herself as an individual. I highly recommend this book, especially to other Jewel fans, although you certainly need not be a fan to appreciate her story. It’s impressive how much she has gone through, yet she’s not bitter or resentful about her past. She has accepted it, embraced it, forgiven, and chosen love. She is never broken.
I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review.