Finding herself born to be the stable center of a vastly dysfunctional family, Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter keeps her balance with yoga.
Each chapter of Hemingway’s memoir opens with a yoga posture, which has an uplifting effect; readers get the feeling that yoga just might be good for one’s well-being. Mariel’s “heartbreakingly lovely” widowed mother, Byra, married Jack Hemingway after an intense four-year courtship, even though she didn’t love him. Mariel was born four months after grandfather’s suicide in 1961. Lack of love and his own leanings soon left Jack disaffected from his family and paying it little attention while Byra griped about housework and raged at him. Mariel’s eldest sister Muffet was mentally ill; school-skipping, star-crossed middle sister Margaux partied wildly, left home, became a model, and starred in the movie Lipstick, recruiting 13-year-old Mariel for a supporting role. Just as she discovered her talent for acting, Mariel was stuck with the grim task of nursing her cancer-stricken mother. “I came to believe the only way I could avoid the same fate was through controlling what I put into my own mouth,” she writes; she flung herself into vegetarianism, macrobiotics, and other diets until her thyroid gland shut down. She also consulted a succession of “spiritual wacks, psychics, astrologers, and holistic doctors.” At 16, a total innocent, she played a sexually astute teenager in Woody Allen’s Manhattan, then flew off to the Cannes Film Festival with Dad. Still a virgin, she depicted a lesbian track-star champion in Personal Best and later got breast implants to portray murdered Playboy playmate Dorothy Stratten in Star 80. The memoir’s last few chapters chant a litany of woe: Margaux dies of an epileptic seizure a coroner calls suicide, Dad goes into a brain-dead coma while talking with Mariel in the hospital, husband Steve survives cancer and near-drowning. Time to meditate.
Should leave most readers standing on their heads with admiration.