An intimate and heartfelt memoir.



A Hollywood actress reflects on the life and death of her mother, Natalie Wood (1938-1981).

Wagner was 11 years old when her mother, with whom she felt inextricably “entwined,” drowned. In this eloquent debut memoir, the author examines Wood’s life and the relationship they had while offering her perspective on the mysterious circumstances surrounding her mother’s untimely demise. Born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko in San Francisco, Wood was the daughter of Russian immigrants. At age 4, she caught the attention of a Hollywood director. Five years later, Wood had not only played opposite such legends as Orson Welles; she had also earned enough celebrity status to negotiate movie contracts that included jobs for the star-struck parents who would control their daughter throughout adolescence and young adulthood. In 1957, Wood married Robert Wagner, her “childhood movie crush,” in part to escape a lonely and restrictive family life. The two divorced and then reunited in the early 1970s, after Wood ended her marriage to the author’s birth father, producer Richard Gregson. For most of the author’s childhood, life with Wood and “Daddy Wagner” was idyllic. But as the author remembers her beautiful mother presiding over dazzling celebrity parties, she also remembers the terror she felt being apart from Wood, which haunted her long after her mother’s death. When the author’s parents returned to full-time acting, the pressures mounted. Wood developed a dependence on alcohol, high levels of which were found in her blood after she died. The author denies years of tabloid speculation that Robert Wagner murdered her mother, suggesting instead that the reports, which came from Wood’s envious younger sister and a family employee, were motivated by greed. Fascinating as these details are, it is Wagner’s sensitive, probing depiction of how she coped without Wood that makes for the most compelling reading in a book that celebrates both a brilliant actress and a bygone film era.

An intimate and heartfelt memoir.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1118-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 16

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?