I love a good celebrity memoir. They’re usually a light bit of fun that offers a unique peek under the curtain of fame and fortune. I’m currently re-reading Little Girl Lost, Drew Barrymore’s 1991 classic tale of pre-teen debauchery and shoddy parenting. It’s all over the f—king place and messy as hell, but definitely entertaining. I also (somewhat) recently read Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick, which was just fine. It was no Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe in terms of the volume of names dropped and “secrets” revealed (nothing new or scandalous was actually revealed, thanks for the tease, Rob), but it was honest and well written. But ultimately, most celebrity memoirs are ephemerally forgettable (like, I’m pretty sure I read Lauren Graham’s memoir Talking As Fast As I Can, but can recall nary a detail), but I read them anyway.
There are a few exceptions. I still think about Anjelica Huston’s pair of memoirs Watch Me and A Story Lately Told which, if you listen to them narrated by the author on audiobook, you’ll never pronounce “turquoise” the same way again. Those books were extraordinary. But then I land on something like We’re Going To Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union and heave a deeply disappointed sigh. I’d just about given up on finding another extraordinary celebrity memoir when Sally Field’s In Pieces was published last month, just before I left for vacation. Sally accompanied me on 8 flights over a two-week period and we’re close enough now that I can tell her how I feel: Sally, Thank you. In Pieces is extraordinary.
7 years in the making. I knew I had a story to tell. It’s incredibly personal for me, things I never thought I’d say out loud. But, I needed to put all the pieces in front of me so I could see what picture they made. Maybe others will recognize some of the pieces in themselves. pic.twitter.com/BHZzdfit9H— Sally Field (@sally_field) March 28, 2018
In Pieces isn’t a memoir about Hollywood or fame or Burt Reynolds’ mustache. Well, it kind of is, pieces of it are. The title is a clue to its purpose. “In Pieces” refers to the various compartmentalized aspects of Sally’s personality, which she deployed as a coping technique in order to manage the childhood trauma she suffered at the hands of her stuntman/actor stepfather, and her unpredictable, alcoholic mother (who was also an actress until she could no longer function), who played both savior and saboteur throughout her life. In Pieces is raw, brutally honest, introspective, and feels like an exercise in forgiveness for Sally. It manifests in forgiveness for her flawed yet deeply loved mother, as well as forgiveness for herself as a mother and a daughter. It also lands on forgiveness for not always being herself, and at other times, forgiveness for being herself. And yes, Sally drew on these fractured aspects of her own personality in her Emmy winning portrayal of Sybil in 1976.
As for the other pieces of In Pieces, the “Hollywood Memoir” pieces, those are also in there. And they’re handled deftly and with good taste. It’s the story of a remarkable career. In Pieces was a great reminder of all the wonderful work Sally has done over the years. She covers the Gidget years, the frustrating prison of The Flying Nun, the ups and downs of being a TV star trying to break into the movies, and the years she spent honing her craft as an integral member of The Actor’s Studio. She even pulls the mask off of her anguished relationship with Burt Reynolds, who she describes as a deeply troubled and controlling man. It’s not a cruel portrayal at all, but it does make me wonder if the publication of this book was always intended to occur after he died.
Luckily for us, Sally’s career is as healthy as ever. Her role in the Netflix series Maniac is already creating a lot of buzz for the 71-year-old actress. And even if she never acted again, Sally and her myriad pieces have already solidified her as a national treasure and an iconic movie star. And now she can add respected author (no ghostwriters for Sally, In Pieces is all her) to her long list of accomplishments.
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