Chilling memoir by a Fox Business Network anchor and child star chronicles the misery of growing up with a cruel, controlling and abusive stage mother.
Francis’ narrative grabs readers immediately. She became a TV actress at age 8, when she captured the role of Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the prime-time soap opera Little House on the Prairie. She chafed but thrived under her mother’s relentless pressure to succeed: “My mom had a power over me, over all of us, for a long time. I was hostage to her moods, her violence, her praise, her favor, all doled out in random doses and with confusing inconsistency, which had been designed to control me, training me to crave her attention like a starving dog.” By contrast, their mother neglected or harangued Francis’ older sister, who disliked being in the spotlight. By the time Francis left home to study economics at Harvard, her sister’s life was crumbling, and the intense closeness they once shared had evaporated. As the author’s romantic life and TV news career began to gel, her sister remained mired in a lonely, directionless existence. This destructive pattern ultimately resulted in a family tragedy; Francis still feels guilty about not doing more for her sister. But now that she is the mother of two children, she understands that each child is unique and requires his or her own style of nurturance. “The one size fits all, hard line approach to pushing children as hard as you can and demanding the very best doesn’t fit them both,” she writes, “as it didn’t fit both Tiffany and me.”
One of those intimate, heartbreaking, doubled-edged stories that is hard to read, impossible to put down.