Comedian Burnett (This Time Together, 2010, etc.) limns her relationship with her eldest daughter, Carrie Hamilton, who died of cancer at age 38.
A mother can be forgiven for a tender yet poorly written book about a beloved daughter who died too young, but Burnett's prose is uninspired and littered with clichés. In her telling, excitement is always “unbridled,” life is full of experiences that are “magical,” “beautiful” or “terrific,” and people are always “gung-ho,” even on the cancer ward. It would be tempting to dismiss Burnett's recreated dialogue as pure fabrication, except that about half of the book consists of emails from her daughter, which she copied and pasted directly into the text. Missing a narrative arc, the book meanders through various chapters of Hamilton's life: her youthful drug addiction and multiple, ultimately successful stints in rehab; the collapse of her parents' marriage and, later, her own; her wanderlust; her early success as an entertainer. Hamilton led a varied and unconventional life, and her exploits should be richer and more engaging on the page. Unfortunately, they are flattened by Burnett's refusal to analyze: She tells us that her daughter traveled constantly, and where, but she never explains why. Although the book is deeply flawed, its subject, Hamilton, comes across as a warm, vivacious and talented young woman. She acted, wrote and sang, and she was a caring daughter, sister and friend. According to the many glowing letters Burnett received after Hamilton's death, she was loved by all those who came into contact with her.
A mediocre book, but it's not difficult to understand why Burnett wrote it. Instead of buying it, rent Tokyo Pop, a 1988 cult classic starring a young, radiant Hamilton.