Brooke Shields’ new memoir illuminates alcoholic mother-daughter relationship in honest way

Just when you believe the world has gotten enough memoirs by children of alcoholics, Brooke Shields comes out with There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me.

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Her story is heartbreaking, and that surprises me. I grew up in the era when Shields was the most beautiful teenager on the planet. She wore Calvin Klein jeans and frolicked in azure waters with Chris Atkins (not that I actually got to see Blue Lagoon — is my parents didn’t let me see R-rated movies). Then she went to Princeton! What a lucky girl!

I idolized her, even buying her book, On My Own, written about her time going to college and supposedly growing up. I remember pictures of Shields in a leotard demonstrating exercises I should have done to be beautiful like her.

But no, her life was filled with drama, and it wasn’t the good kind. Her mother-manager was an alcoholic mess who mishandled her Shields’ career, verbally abused her and constantly disappointed her. And yet, Shields loved her and tried to protect her.

After reading There Was a Little Girl, I’m reminded the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I was not beautiful or rich or famous, but I had two parents who loved each other and me.

Shields pours out her feelings in this book in a way that was probably only possible because her mother is now dead. She still misses her mother (mothers are singularly loved like that) but I couldn’t help but feel a little relieved when her mother dies of Alzheimer’s (not cirrhosis of the liver); Shields now has the opportunity to heal and fix her codependent ways.

I appreciated Shields’ honesty throughout the book, especially the passage about losing her virginity to Dean Cain and how it was marred by her unhealthy relationship with her mother, but the book would have benefited greatly from a better editor. It rambles. A lot of repetition could have been cut, and I found myself stumbling over many awkward sentences. And weirdly, I think she tried to lighten the mood throughout the description of her mother’s demise with gallows humor, but It didn’t work for me.

Still, Shields does well in painting a complete picture of herself as more than just a famous persona and of her mother as both amazing and broken. She successfully sets the record straight on her early career which involved controversial nudity and adult situations (and, by the way, she didn’t get to write most of On My Own and hated that book). It is quite clear Shields would have been just another beautiful girl without her brash, risk-taking mother.

For a celebrity memoir, There Was a Little Girl succeeds in dishing dirt while casting light on the truth of the human condition.

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