Nicely mingling wit and wisdom, television actress Burns crafts a memoir about being a daughter, becoming a mother and coming to terms with the gap between what you want and what you get.
The first-time author has created an unforgettable and ultimately forgiving portrait of her mother, a hard-working, talented, sometimes imperious and self-centered woman, widowed twice before age 50, who had an astonishing ability to make insensitive remarks and a regrettable inability to be close to her own children. Burns’s stories of growing up with and trying to connect to her distant mother will make readers both wince and smile, as will her portrait of herself as a raging, contempt-filled, bulimic teenager who takes cocaine and visits a psychiatrist. She follows up those pages with a deft comic account of clerking at Barneys while trying to become an actress. Eventually, Burns achieves some professional success and finds security in her second marriage. When her daughter Olive is born, she is determined to be the perfect mother and, of course, frets when she falls short or imagines that she is doing so. In an appealingly self-deprecatory style, with a keen eye for the trials and tribulations of modern urban motherhood, Burns relates anecdotes of her struggles to give her daughter the childhood that she never had. Just as observant of others’ foibles as she is of her own, the author provides cutting sketches of superior nannies and repulsive children in the park, of self-important fathers and impatient mothers. Parents will sympathize with her account of taking a sick child to a patronizing doctor. Raising a daughter gives her a new perspective and introduces tough questions: Just what are a mother’s responsibilities? How do you mother without smothering? Meanwhile, her own mother is aging; facing that reality raises its own concerns and questions as Burns keeps on trying for a relationship that eludes her.
Biting and funny, yet still tender and touching.