And here’s another as/is reposted book review… It was originally posted in 2013.
I was three years old when Dorothy Hamill won the Olympic gold medal in ladies figure skating in Innsbruck, Austria in February 1976. She was nineteen years old and immediately became America’s Sweetheart. I don’t remember watching her win, but as a child of the 70s and 80s, I sure remember her. For awhile, I even had her haircut (my mom’s preference, not mine). So, when I recently saw her 2007 book A Skating Life on Amazon.com, I decided to read it.
This book is Hamill’s second autobiography. She wrote her first one in 1983, when she was just 26 years old. I did not read her first book, but I’m guessing that A Skating Life is an uglier book in terms of the realities of what Hamill endured on her way to the top. Although Dorothy Hamill has always seemed like an All American kind of athlete who would be right at home at Disneyland, the truth is, she has been through a lot.
A Skating Life starts at the beginning, as Hamill writes about how she came to be a skater. Hamill had a difficult time with her mother, whom she describes as being hard to satisfy and difficult. It turns out her mom, who was very athletic, had suffered from dysthymia for most of her life. For those who don’t know, dysthymia is basically a low grade depression that makes it very difficult for sufferers to enjoy their lives. They aren’t at the point of not functioning, though. You might say they are perpetually cranky. Hamill’s father loved music and passed his love of music to Dorothy, who used that gift when she created her skating programs.
After Dorothy won the gold, she was expected to pay her parents back for all they did for her. For awhile, that was okay. She had the money. As time went on, the money started drying up and Dorothy had to cut her parents from the payroll. It caused a lot of hard feelings.
In the midst of her problems with her parents, Hamill fell in love with her first husband, Dean Paul Martin. He was the love of her life. Sadly, their marriage didn’t last very long… and neither did Martin, who was killed shortly after their divorce. Martin did live long enough to see Dorothy get involved with her second husband, Dr. Kenneth Forsythe, who was a good looking man and the father of two kids from his first marriage. Sadly, he was not the most hard working fellow in the world. She shares a lovely daughter named Alexandra with Kenneth Forsythe, who is now her second ex husband.
I could go on, but that would ruin the book for potential readers. The point is, Dorothy Hamill has led a difficult life fraught with betrayal and financial problems. She has always had a very sweet reputation and is the very picture of adorable elegance. But behind the bright smile and sparkling eyes, there’s a woman who has coped with a lot of trials.
A Skating Life is reasonably well written. I thought it was an interesting read, even though it is a bit negative. Dorothy Hamill does try to look at the bright side of some of the situations she’s been in, including her purchase of the now defunct show The Ice Capades, which folded two years after she bought it. Ultimately, I think it’s a triumphant book, but some readers might find it a bit of a downer. Others might see it as a plea for sympathy.
Also, it’s important to realize that this book is already six years old. When A Skating Life was published, Hamill’s daughter was 18 years old. She’s now 25 years old. Dorothy has since remarried and was on Dancing With The Stars, but had to withdraw due to spinal issues. You won’t read about this in the book, though, making it a bit dated.
I think Dorothy Hamill was brutally honest in her book A Skating Life. I also got the sense that she wrote the book for financial reasons. However, as someone who has suffered from depression, I commend Hamill for writing about it and explaining that it’s a real phenomenon. Her mother suffered from it; so did Dorothy during the worst years, when she was considered “over the hill” and had a husband who was bilking her for money as he cheated on her. I also commend Dorothy Hamill for respecting her daughter’s relationship with her ex husband. I really have high regard for parents who, when they decide to divorce, don’t try to alienate their children from their exes. It sounds like Dorothy Hamill did her best not to do that, although she definitely doesn’t paint her second ex husband in a good light.
I hope the ensuing years have been better for her.
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