Kirkus Reviews QR Code
FAMILY SECRETS by Sherry Glaser

FAMILY SECRETS

One Woman's Affectionate Look at a Relatively Painful Subject

By Sherry Glaser

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-83023-X

 A moving, ribald, and vulnerable take on a family and a life. In Glaser's one-woman show, the Off-Broadway hit Family Secrets, she performs a series of monologues (written with her husband) in which she plays characters based on members of her family. She incorporates many of those pieces into this memoir. The result is a compelling autobiography rendered in two genres; Glaser is funny, painfully raw, and honest in both. She takes on difficult subjects--her bulimia, both her mother's and her grandmother's mental illnesses, her father's emotional distance, her troubled pill-popping adolescence, and uncomfortable physical closeness with male relatives. The performances become a part of her life story as she describes the pain and rewards of assembling them, of putting her life onstage. We also hear about what has been going on behind the scenes--Glaser has a baby and an abortion, her marriage almost falls apart, and her mother has another breakdown. Sometimes the juxtaposition of memoir and performance is confusing; in the memoir, her grandmother is presented as a selfish and miserable woman, while in the performance piece reprinted in the book, she's a likable and complex character who very much resembles Glaser herself. The memoir is not always as strong as the fictionalized monologues. For one thing, it lacks their economy; Glaser's writing can be self-indulgent. Furthermore, the memoir has more New Age spiritual and therapeutic jargon than the performance. Its hostility to mother figures is more open, too, as is a tone of self-pity; in the monologues, these tendencies are overwhelmed by the inherently--indeed extraordinarily--empathic impulse behind the project of physically dressing up as members of her own family. But despite some roughness, this work is affecting and insightful about both family and the artistic process.