Sure to be marketed as an exposé on raising Courtney Love, the walking car crash of our time, Carroll’s is an unassuming and reflective coming-of-age memoir.
Carroll’s adoptive parents provided her creature comforts but no real tenderness. Mom Louella was one of those cold and sometimes cruel wealthy women of countless melodramas; though always perfectly appointed, her outbursts revealed a severely damaged core (Carroll’s biological mother, she would later learn, is the memoirist Paula Fox). Unlike Louella, father “Jack” was warm and (overly) affectionate—his constant ogling of his daughter crossed over into fondling more than once. Carroll’s childhood and teen years mimic those of countless rebellious, too-smart-for-their-own-good youths; she gets kicked out of several Catholic schools, dates a James Dean greaser and just after high-school graduation, falls in with a crowd of hedonistic, pseudo-intellectual San Francisco bohemians. One of these, eccentric wannabe professor Frank, fathers Carroll’s first child, known to the subsequent generation as rock star Courtney Love, just after Carroll’s 18th birthday. A string of marriages and children follow—three and five, respectively. As Carroll finally confronts her psychological demons and navigates a path toward happiness, she watches her eldest (only sometimes estranged) daughter, the violent and untameable Courtney, live out her dramatic downward spiral in the public eye. Carroll has a strength for capturing her various environments—from the Haight-Ashbury beatnik scene of the late ’60s, to her New Age, post-hippie life in New Zealand in the ’70s. But the plodding chronology of “then-this-happened” has a dulling effect.
A surprisingly evocative account that, perhaps as a result of its author’s current career as a therapist, at times veers dangerously close to self-help territory.