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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Prairie Tale...Review

About the book:
A fascinating, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting tale of self-discovery from the beloved actress who earned a permanent place in the hearts of millions when she was just a child.

To fans of the hugely successful television series Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert grew up in a fantasy world with a larger-than-life father, friends and family she could count on, and plenty of animals to play with. Children across the country dreamed of the Ingalls' idyllic life -- and so did Melissa.

She was a natural on camera, but behind the scenes, life was more complicated. Adopted as a baby into a legendary show business family, Melissa wrestled with questions about her identity and struggled to maintain an image of perfection her mother created and enforced. Only after years of substance abuse, dysfunctional relationships, and made-for-television movies did she begin to figure out who she really was.

With candor and humor, the cherished actress traces her complicated journey from buck-toothed Laura "Half-pint" Ingalls to Hollywood starlet, wife, and mother. She partied with the Brat Pack, dated heartthrobs like Rob Lowe and bad boys like Billy Idol, and began a self-destructive pattern of addiction and codependence. Left in debt after her first marriage, and struggling to create some sense of stability, she eventually realized that her career on television had earned her popularity, admiration, and love from everyone but herself.

Through hard work, tenacity, sobriety, and the blessings of a solid marriage, Melissa has accepted her many different identities and learned to laugh, cry, and forgive in new ways. Women everywhere may have idolized her charming life on Little House on the Prairie, but Melissa's own unexpectedly honest, imperfect, and down-to-earth story is an inspiration.

Melissa Gilbert weaves an interesting and enthralling tale of life in Hollywood. She is open about the fact that she was adopted at birth, and how that information affected her perceptions of herself. She name drops at every turn, which is understandable, as she grew up in a show business family and her friends and acquaintances from an early age were actors. If you've thought of Melissa as a sweet, innocent actress, she shatters that perception. She's very open about the fact that she has addictive tendencies and because of that, struggled with alcoholism and substance abuse for years, before finally becoming sober.

Melissa talks a great deal about her time on Little House on the Prairie and the father figure that Michael Landon was to her, and his influence. Her little insights into the filming of the show were fun. She chronicles her long-term, often volatile romance with Rob Lowe and their adventures with the Brat Pack (including Tom Cruise and Emilio Estevez), and her drug use. She writes of her first marriage and divorce; of meeting her second husband, Bruce Boxleitner and their romance, and the subsequent premature birth of their son, Michael. Melissa also chronicles her stint as SAG President, and includes some snarky commentary about various difficult actors and actresses.

While entertaining and enthralling, this is the memoir of a woman who struggled with many issues throughout her life, including her identity, the need to present a perfect front, and her attraction toward dysfunctional, dangerous men. The book is a veritable Who's Who in Hollywood, including who slept with whom.

This was a book that I had high expectations for and while I wound up liking it, I was also disappointed at the same time. The narration was often disjointed and jumped around a bit. However, my biggest disappointment was in the amount of profanity, which is what kept me from giving it three stars. The crass, prolific vulgarity was distracting and unnecessary. Other than that, it was an entertaining read.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 6/09

* *
2/5 Stars


  1. Great review. I'm not sure this book is for me, but I think my mom would love it!

  2. Sounds interesting, but I don't really want to read it I don't think. Thanks for the review.

  3. I just read about this book in Entertainment Weekly last week and have it on my to read list. Your review is great - but the profanity does sound like a problem. At least my expectations will be lower now!

  4. Thank you for the thorough review. You're very good at this!
    The book sounds interesting. But it makes you wonder why the profanity was necessary. I'm sure the book would be much better without it.

  5. Good review Holly. I just bought this book for my mom-it should be arriving soon. I'm not usually clear on books that don't need bad language using it. Doesn't make sense when the story would do fine without it. I'm anxious to see what my mom will think of it.

  6. Holly - I will have an award for you posted on my blog shortly!

  7. Holly~

    I started this book and had the same perceptions as you. I ended up just skimming it. I don't think I missed much.

    I even told a friend about the profanity and kind of felt that she used it to prove she wasn't the sweet little girl that we grew up with. I don't have a problem with profanity if it is necessary to the story but, like you, I thought her use of it was distracting.

  8. This book just became available for me on PBS and I have requested it. I have been looking forward to reading it. Thanks for your wonderful and honest review...now I know what to expect!

    Happy reading!

  9. I must have been under a rug... I didnt even know she wrote a book. Thanks for reviewing it. :)

  10. How disappointing! I would have loved to find that she was as sweet and innocent as little Laura Ingalls, but I know that's a pipe dream. I'll skip this one because of the profanity. Thanks for the review!

  11. Great review! I just finished this, so would love to link to your review when I post mine. Having been known to use a few choice words myself, the profanity didn't really bother me in this - nor seem excessive - but again, that just might be my perception. Otherwise, I had pretty similar thoughts as yours. :)