Thursday, June 30, 2016
FROM MOTHER AND DAUGHTER TO FRIENDS
As I have little interest in the TV show Friends and its star, Jennifer Aniston, it may seem odd that I chose this tome to read. I think I have always been curious about how it really feels for someone in show biz to essentially have a non-career while their child goes on to great success and fame. From Mother to Daughter does not really explore that, as Nancy Aniston -- if we're to believe her -- seemed more interested in her actor husband's success than her own, and encouraged her daughter in her acting pursuits. She doesn't come off like a stereotypical "stage mom," either. Nancy did her best to get husband John Aniston on his feet and make a living when his acting career stalled for years. He later became a successful soap opera actor and, typically, discarded the wife who'd been there for him, although Nancy is charitable and suggests that what she saw as encouragement he only interpreted as nagging. All Nancy could get her husband to say was "I am not committed to this marriage" -- she subsequently learned he had a girlfriend (one of his co-stars). After daughter Jennifer's success on Friends, Nancy made the innocent mistake of talking to a tabloid show (ostensibly about a special school she felt was doing good work) and an over-reacting Jennifer stopped speaking to her mother. (This book did little to close the gap but after a few years -- when Jennifer broke up with Brad Pitt -- she reached out to her mother once again.) But forget about Jennifer, Friends, and Brat Pitt, From Mother and Daughter works because it is a very well-written memoir that frankly explores painful moments such as the death of Nancy's baby sister; her mother walking out on the family (and the mother's subsequent death); the rejection from her husband and their divorce, and watching as her children grew up to lead their own lives in which she may not necessarily have played as large a part. Some of this must be taken with a grain of salt, as the book presents only one side of the story, and there are hints that Nancy could be a mite priggish, but her writing about how women -- especially cast-off wives -- need to empower themselves is admirable. If her account is accurate, however, Jennifer should probably have stopped talking to her father, not her mother. In any case, Nancy Aniston passed away a few weeks ago, and one hopes that she and her daughter reconciled long before then.
Verdict: Affecting and often moving memoir. ***1/2.