book reviews

Repost: A review of Tracey Gold’s Room To Grow: An Appetite for Life…

Here’s a repost of Tracey Gold’s book about her experiences with anorexia nervosa. I wrote this on September 27, 2016, and am reposting it as/is.

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, which were prime years for television sitcoms.  I watched a lot of TV when I was coming of age.  One show I rarely missed was Growing Pains, a family comedy starring Alan Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, and Jeremy Miller.  A few years into the show’s run (too late to save it), Ashley Johnson and a young Leonardo DiCaprio would also join the cast.

Since I watched a lot of TV as a kid, I also saw Tracey Gold in plenty of other shows.  She was a guest star on Trapper John, MD, starred in several After School Specials, and was also on CHiPs.  It was Gold’s appearance on CHiPs that finally prompted me to read her 2004 book, Room To Grow: An Appetite for Life.  I probably wanted to read this book when it first came out, but was scared away by all the negative reviews.  Now that I’ve read the book, I can say that although it’s now a bit dated, it’s probably not as bad as the many bad reviews would have you believe.  

Tracey Gold and her younger sister, Missy, were both child actors with some acclaim.  Missy Gold was the star of Benson, a show I never watched.  Benson aired for several years and, for awhile, Missy was probably more popular than Tracey was.  Both Tracey and Missy were products of their mother Bonnie’s first marriage to Joe Fisher.  When Bonnie and Joe split up, Joe was no longer in the picture.  Later, Bonnie remarried actor and agent Harry Gold (shortened from Goldstein).  He adopted Tracey and Missy and he and Bonnie had two more daughters naturally and adopted a third.

Apparently, the Golds were a very close and loving family, but had no boundaries.  Tracey explains that even if she had not been a child actress, she probably would have developed anorexia nervosa, which she had suffered from in two bouts.  The first one occurred when she was a pre-teen (and indeed, I remember reading about it when I was in the eighth grade).  The second happened in the late 1980s and early 90s, when Tracey was a young woman at the height of her career.  

Although she claims she did not become anorexic due to the many fat jokes hurled at her on Growing Pains, the jokes clearly did not help matters.  But, I suspect based on what I know about eating disorders and what Tracey herself reports, part of her problems with eating stemmed from having a mother who had bulimic tendencies.  And though she apparently loves Harry Gold as if he were her natural father, I suspect her biological father’s departure from her life also helped form the conditions that led to anorexia nervosa.  But that’s just my opinion and I could be wrong.

Room to Grow is a memoir that is mostly about Gold’s struggles with eating disorders.  Those who want to read about Tracey’s childhood growing up on television may be somewhat disappointed with this book.  She is interested mostly in explaining how the eating disorder developed as well as her relationship with her husband, Roby Marshall.  Since the book was published twelve years ago, it doesn’t cover the births of her youngest two sons, Aidan and Dylan.  It does discuss her pregnancies with older sons, Sage and Bailey.

This book is also basically well written, but does have a few editing glitches within it.  They are basically minor mistakes.  Ghostwriter Julie McCarron does a pretty good job of making this book sound as if it was coming straight from Tracey Gold.  I could pretty much picture Tracey saying aloud what was written on the pages.  There are photos included, but they are hard to see on a Kindle app.  

Room to Grow is not a bad book, though I think I would have found it more compelling had Tracey included more details about everything.  By this, I don’t just mean the eating disorder (which I’m pretty sure she deliberately tries to keep vague to prevent “thinsperation”), but everything…  I would have enjoyed reading a little more about her career and her family.  She offers a few teases, but doesn’t generally follow through.  So by the time I was finished reading, I didn’t feel like I got the whole story.  She’s had a very interesting career and comes from an interesting family.  More details would have been very beneficial to the end product.  Hell, I’d be interested if she’d just offered a few more details about her well known anorexia TV movie, For The Love of Nancy.  She had originally said she didn’t want to do this movie, but as you can see, she changed her mind… 

But overall… I think I’d give this book 3.5 stars.

Tracey Gold’s 1994 made for TV film about anorexia nervosa, For The Love of Nancy.

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