A public relations executive tells the story of her once-glamorous mother’s decline into mental illness.
Giles knew her mother, Carolyn Scott, as a free-spirited but socially isolated Long Island homemaker who was close to Grace Kelly. She also knew her as the woman who insisted to doctors that her youngest daughter was too sickly to attend school. Many years later, when the author saw a newspaper story about how her now homeless and mentally ill mother had been a bridesmaid at Kelly’s wedding, she realized that Carolyn’s early life was a mystery to her. Desperate for insight, Giles began to research her mother's past. Carolyn left her “hardscrabble hometown” in Ohio for New York City when she was 19. She took up residence at the famous Barbizon Hotel for women, where she met and befriended aspiring actress Kelly in 1947. Carolyn started modeling, eventually signing on with the then-fledgling Ford Modeling Agency. Though she married in 1949, she continued to model while Grace began a brief but spectacularly successful career as a film actress, which ended with her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco. As she drew nearer to 30, Carolyn devoted herself to motherhood full-time. But after the traumatic C-section birth of her third and final child, she gradually withdrew into the distant, fragile figure of Giles’ memories. Only after consulting with doctors about the circumstances around that birth was the author able to ascertain the truth: though diagnosed with schizophrenia, Carolyn had in fact suffered from postpartum psychosis that had deteriorated over time. Giles suggests that because the condition was not well understood at that time, Carolyn would not have received proper care. But had treatment existed, recovery—and a normal life for her and family—would have been possible. Illustrated throughout with photos, the narrative celebrates a lifelong female friendship while shedding light on a powerful, if at times painful and complex, mother-daughter bond.
A poignantly compelling memoir about family, mental health, and revisiting the past.