I’m not exactly sure what made me decide to read actor/musician John Stamos’ memoir, If You Would Have Told Me: A Memoir, published in late October 2023. John Stamos has been famous for a good portion of my life. He was on General Hospital in the early 80s, but I never watched that show. I was a Guiding Light fan. I do remember him from Full House, but I was a little too old for that show when it originally aired. I can’t say I was a super fan.
I’ve also never thought Stamos was a particularly great musician… or, at least not when he did music on Full House. I do know that he’s friends with the surviving members of The Beach Boys, and they often have him as a guest drummer. But even though I have a lot of music from a vast array of artists across the spectrum of musicians, I don’t own any music by John Stamos.
So why did I read John’s book, If You Would Have Told Me? Well, it was probably based on a combination of drinking too much alcohol and reading too many clickbait articles about the more lurid details about the book. I am not a particularly highbrow type, so I don’t mind dipping into scandalous tell alls sometimes, even if the book was just written strictly for the money. And the cast of Full House has had its share of scandals. They aren’t quite to the tragic level of the actors from Diff’rent Strokes, but there have been some headlines. I figured some of that would be in John Stamos’ book. Plus, I figured it would be quick and easy to read.
I finished If You Would Have Told Me last night. Overall, I think it’s a fairly decent memoir. I’ve certainly read worse. However, Stamos writes in historical present tense, which is a little annoying to me. It’s just a personal quirk of mine. He’s also not a particularly humble person, not that I was expecting him to be. Sometimes he’s fairly candid, especially when he speaks of his addiction to alcohol and how it was affecting his health. I can tell that John Stamos’ late parents were very good people who loved their children, but his mother, Loretta, especially doted on John. And he obviously adored her, too, as much as he respected his father. I enjoyed reading about that. He made it sound like his parents were salt of the earth type people who never let John’s fame go to their heads or change their lifestyles.
There are some things missing from John Stamos’ book. He mentions working on ER, for example, late in the show’s iconic run. He explains that he was up for the part of Dr. Dave Malucci (played by Erik Palladino), but didn’t get it because the producers thought he was too much like George Clooney. Maybe he was in terms of his looks, but I don’t think Stamos and Clooney are comparable as actors. I hasten to add, I remember some of Clooney’s earliest roles, including when he was on a sitcom called E/R. I remember finding Clooney annoying on that show, as well as when he was on The Facts of Life. I didn’t even think he was cute in those days. But on ER, Clooney was a true star, and he played Dr. Doug Ross to perfection. Stamos did okay as Dr. Tony Gates, but he certainly wasn’t as electric as Clooney was, and he’s kidding himself if he thinks that. I could, however, see him as Malucci… but I think it’s better that the producers went with a lesser known actor who had less of a “pretty boy” aura.
Stamos was also on Glee, which was a very popular show. He doesn’t mention that role at all. I actually liked him on Glee as the dentist who wants to marry the OCD guidance counselor.
Stamos mentions having a good relationship with his Full House castmates, the Olsen twins, Lori Loughlin, Bob Saget (especially), and Candace Cameron. But I don’t remember him printing a word about Jodie Sweetin, who played Stephanie Tanner. He even mentions the cute twins who played his sons on Full House (and somehow looked nothing like either Stamos or Loughlin), but nothing about Jodie. And really, there wasn’t much about Dave Coulier, either– He played Joey, Danny Tanner’s (Saget’s) best friend on Full House.
Stamos was a good friend of Don Rickles’, and he writes quite a lot about that. Rickles, like Bob Saget, was a famously caustic comedian. His humor was not politically correct. Neither was Bob Saget’s comedy, which some people might not know. On Full House, Saget’s character was obsessed with being neat, and played a squeaky clean father type. But when Saget worked as a comic, he was famously profane and crass. I never saw any of his routines. I probably would have enjoyed them. Stamos writes that he and Saget were like brothers, and he was crushed when Saget suddenly died in January 2022.
I did find If You Would Have Told Me a relatively easy and fun read. Stamos seems like a pretty decent guy, in spite of his celebrity. He is a bit full of himself at times, but he tempers that occasional conceit with stories that humble him a bit. He doesn’t write a whole lot about his alcoholism, but he does mention it, and how it was killing him. The fact that Stamos doesn’t delve too much into his demons makes his book lightweight reading that will please the masses. I wasn’t expecting great literature from Stamos’ life story, but I think it would have been nice if he’d dug a little deeper.
Stamos also has few comments about Lori Loughlin’s recent college acceptance scandal that sent her to a federal prison in 2021. He seems to really like Loughlin, though. In fact, Stamos seems to have a lot of friends… and he writes as much about them as he does about himself and his own life. Some readers might find that a weakness.
Overall, I think I’d give If You Would Have Told Me 3.5 stars out of 5. I didn’t think it was a terrible book. I’ve read much worse. But parts of it are kind of boring, and Stamos is quite conceited at times. He does a lot of name dropping and bragging. And when it comes down to it, there really isn’t a lot of meat to this book. He loves his parents and sisters, and that’s a good thing. He thought of many Full House cast members as family… also a good thing.
I just don’t think Stamos spent much time really reflecting on his life before he wrote this book. He spent a lot of time writing about other people, rather than himself. And while some might think it’s rude to speak or write too much about themselves, that’s kind of what memoirs are for. I mean, people buy memoirs to read life stories. So I think John’s life story should have had more about him and his life, and less about Don Rickles and The Beach Boys. Just my humble opinion. And I wish he hadn’t written in historical present tense. But again, that’s just me. Your mileage may vary.
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Good morning, blog fans. Another Monday is upon us. Today, I woke up alone at about 3:00 AM. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I plowed through the rest of Britney Spears’ bombshell memoir, The Woman in Me.
I read Britney’s book, not because I am a big fan of her music, but because I know she has a story, and she was silenced for far too long under her father’s disgusting conservatorship scam. I’ve come to admire her prodigious talents and her undeniable pluck. She’s been through a lot, and while I have no doubts that she struggles with mental health issues, I also think she was used and abused for most of her life. I admire her for fighting back against the many parasitic people who were in her life, and for making herself heard… and I love that this project is hers, and she will profit from it.
The Woman in Me is decently written, and Britney Spears is remarkably candid about what has happened to her since her birth in McComb, Mississippi on December 2, 1981. She was born into a troubled family. According to Spears, her father, Jamie Spears, is a notorious alcoholic who is a very mean drunk. Britney writes that her father’s father, June, was also a very strict, abusive taskmaster who was mean, while his mother, Jean, tragically committed suicide about eight years after she lost her three day old son.
Britney’s mother, Lynne, was born into a family with money, although her British mother, Lily, longed to go back to her native London. Lynne’s father, Barney, would not allow Lily to go home, so she became kind of flighty and distraught, as Britney describes it.
Since Britney’s parents came from dysfunctional backgrounds, they were pretty dysfunctional themselves when they wed in July 1976. Lynne was Jamie’s second wife; his first wife was Debbie Sanders Cross, and their marriage lasted about three years. Jamie and Debbie are reportedly still friends, even though their marriage failed.
There were problems between Britney’s parents even before they welcomed Britney’s brother, Bryan, on April 24, 1977. Besides Jamie Spears’ alcoholism, there were also serious money problems early in the marriage, although Jamie later turned into a capable businessman in their hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana. Lynne went as far as filing for divorce in 1980, but changed her mind. The couple stayed together so that Britney could be born the following year. Sister Jamie Lynn Spears was born April 4, 1991, even though Jamie and Lynne Spears continued to have marital strife. As of May 2002, they are divorced, although they unofficially reconciled in 2010 and seem to continue to be in and out of each other’s lives.
From an early age, Britney Spears showed an affinity for performing. She loved to sing, dance, and do gymnastics. When it became clear that their daughter had a special gift for performing arts, Britney’s parents encouraged her to participate in musical activities. She made her debut in kindergarten, singing “What Child Is This” for a production at her Christian school. By the time she was eight years old, Britney was auditioning for The Mickey Mouse Club. Although she didn’t make the cut the first time, the casting director liked her enough to encourage her to go to New York and work with a talent agent. Lynne took Britney to New York City and pretty soon, she was singing on Broadway with the likes of Natalie Portman. She was also famously a contestant on Star Search, although she didn’t go far on that show. She was eliminated after her second appearance.
Britney later got on The Mickey Mouse Club, and there she met Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake. She and Justin had a long romance and she eventually got pregnant with his child. She wanted to keep the baby, but Justin objected. So Britney Spears, who had been baptized as Southern Baptist and went to Christian school in the Deep South, had an abortion that she didn’t want. Later, she realized that Timberlake was unfaithful to her, just as other men in her life have been.
By the time Britney was seventeen years old, she was a huge star and certifiably bankable to money hungry executives. When she first started, Britney wanted to work constantly. She loved what she was doing and it came very naturally to her. She was also happy to share her good fortune with her family. But soon she was consumed by the demands of her stardom, and the many people who were making money off of her gifts. She started to have mental health issues and began to crumble quite publicly. She famously got married for 55 hours to her friend, Jason Alexander. The press turned on her; her marriage to Kevin Federline collapsed; and she lost custody of her sons, Sean Preston and Jayden James. She responded by shaving her head.
Then Britney’s father turned into her master, and for thirteen years, she couldn’t so much as eat a piece of pizza or drink a cup of coffee without his permission. Meanwhile, she continued to rake in money, which she was forced to spend on rehabs her father made her attend. He paid himself more than he paid her; she was given an allowance of $2000 a week. And the rest of her family just stood by and did nothing, while Britney was deemed too sick to handle her own affairs, but not too sick to perform on stage or make best selling albums.
This book is pretty easy to read, with short chapters and straightforward writing. There are no photos included, which I see disappointed some readers. Personally, I didn’t mind, since I can easily find many records of the incidents she refers to in the book. Most of them are videos that are easily watched on YouTube.
Some of Britney’s bombshells are shocking and infuriating, but she also manages to include some interesting anecdotes about her life as a star. I was particularly intrigued by her story about working with a huge snake while performing at the 2001 Video Music Awards. While I wouldn’t say Britney’s writing (which is actually assisted by several ghost writers) is extraordinary, nor would I describe her book as super detailed, I would say that she delivers a pretty raw story about what her life as a superstar has been like. Based on Britney’s account, I would say being a superstar is definitely a mixed bag, even if her father hadn’t been an abusive tyrant.
Sure, Britney got to meet a lot of her heroes and has worked with fellow superstars Elton John, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and will.i.am. But she also lost her privacy, as she was hounded by the press. Her every move was scrutinized and critiqued, and she wasn’t allowed to fail. And while she’s made a lot of money, she’s also employed a lot of people, whose livelihoods depend on her ability to deliver great performances. That’s a lot of pressure, even if your parents aren’t dysfunctional assholes. Based on Britney’s story, her parents are definitely in asshole territory.
As of June 9, 2022, Britney Spears is now on her third marriage, but by September 2023 she had already separated from Sam Ashgari. I have no doubt that it’s a challenge to live with Britney Spears. Even if her mental health was rock solid, she can’t enjoy the basic things normal people take for granted. That would be bound to affect anyone close to her, especially a spouse. I don’t know why she and her husband have already split. I hope it’s not because he turned out to be yet another exploiter.
As a singer myself, I really admire Britney Spears’ talents. I also find her very likable, even if I’m still not a big fan of her genre of music. She has undeniable charisma, and that is what makes her such a bankable star. I’m glad she wrote The Woman in Me, and I hope she enjoys the surge of success that comes from sharing her story. She’s entitled to be free to live her life on her own terms. Even if she has a mental illness, she should have the right to handle it without interference from leeches who are just trying to make money off of her star power. I don’t want to see Britney end up like so many other incredibly gifted people who burn out fast and die too young.
As I was reading this book, I was actually reminded a little of Tina Turner, who was also famously exploited by a greedy man who wanted to profit off her talents. Tina was also able to break away in her 40s, just like Britney has. I hope, that like Tina Turner did, Britney is able to enjoy the rest of her life as she pleases. She really deserves it.
I would give The Woman in Me four stars out of five and a hearty recommendation.
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Okay… so I have just finished Jay Herring’s book, The Truth About Cruise Ships: A Cruise Ship Officer Survives the Work, Adventure, Alcohol, and Sex of Ship Life. If you are among the three people who visited yesterday’s post, you may already have an inkling of how today’s review is going to go. It may surprise one or all three of you that my mind has changed slightly since I posted yesterday.
Mr. Herring kind of redeemed himself somewhat toward the end of the book. Now, instead of feeling repulsed and disgusted by his stories of drunken debauchery while working as a computer specialist on Carnival cruise ships, I’m left feeling more ambivalent about his story. I still take a dim view of a lot of his behavior when he worked for Carnival Cruise Line, but I was heartened to see that he recognized that he’d grown up a lot during his time working on ships. That’s a good thing. On the other hand, reading the book still kind of made my skin crawl. Allow me to explain, as I delve into my review of The Truth About Cruise Ships.
Who is Jay Herring and why did I read his book?
Sometime in the early 00s, Jay Herring was a regular college graduate living with his parents near Dallas, Texas. He’d had a land based job he hated, fixing computers. He told his boss that he didn’t enjoy his job and was looking for a new role. Two months later, his boss laid him off, and he moved back in with his parents for the second time since college. He needed to find a new job– preferably one that would get him out of his parents’ house.
After unsuccessfully looking for gainful employment for three months, Herring had a brain storm. He could be a bartender on a cruise ship. This idea came to him even though he’d never seen a cruise ship, let alone taken a cruise as a passenger. Nevertheless, he found himself on Carnival Cruise Line’s website, scouring career opportunities. He noticed an opening for “shipboard I/S manager”. The idea of traveling, leaving the boring 9-5 lifestyle, and moving out of his parents’ house really appealed to him.
Herring filled out an online application; then he later found out who the hiring manager was and sent his resume directly to him. The manager interviewed him on the phone for five minutes, then told him about some of the unusual conditions of the job, such as working for eight months straight, then getting a mandatory eight week vacation. Although the lengthy vacation requirement was odd to Herring, he was still interested. The manager invited him to Miami for an in person interview, where he learned even more about the job and what it would entail. He learned that most people who work on cruise ships end up drinking and smoking to excess; he’d have to carry a pager 24/7; and eventually, the ship would feel like a prison.
Still okay with those conditions, Herring reiterated that he was still interested in working for Carnival. Two months later, Herring got the job; with it, he also got a tiny shared cabin with bunk beds, an officer’s uniform, which later came with epaulets, and raging drinking and sex habits. At the beginning of the book, Jay Herring explains that he was a “nice guy”, who was saving himself for marriage to the “right” woman. When he boarded his first cruise ship as a brand new officer in charge of computers, he was practically a virgin who hadn’t had sex for 12 years. By the time he quit working for Carnival, he was practically a manwhore. I know I probably shouldn’t use that term, but that’s a pretty accurate way to describe what happened. Even Herring admits it; he’d become a man with far fewer inhibitions and qualms having meaningless sex with almost anyone who suggested it.
I have read a number of books written by people who have worked on cruise ships. One book that immediately comes to mind is Cruise Confidential: A Hit Below the Waterline, by Brian David Bruns. Indeed, Mr. Herring credits Bruns in his acknowledgments. I reviewed Bruns’ book for Epinions.com and reposted it on my travel blog. Now that I’m looking at that reposted Epinions review from 2011, I see that I actually read and reviewed Jay Herring’s book before I read Bruns’ book. Incredibly enough, I had completely forgotten that I’d read Mr. Herring’s story before. This is unusual for me; I normally remember the books I’ve read, even if I don’t like them.
It’s kind of telling that I completely forgot about having already read Herring’s story. However, based on what I wrote in my review of Bruns’ book about working for Carnival, I seem to have liked Herring’s book the first time I read it, as it led me to read Bruns’ (vastly superior) book. But, in my defense, I did read the Kindle version of Herring’s book sometime around 2011. That was a long time ago, and I’ve downed a lot of booze since then. I’m sure I’ve killed some brain cells, even if I seem to have matured since 2011.
What I didn’t like about The Truth About Cruise Ships…
To be honest, I was pretty disgusted by many of Herring’s stories. He often came off like a shallow creep, as he described how he was constantly looking to hook up with the women who worked on cruise ships with him. At the beginning of the book, he wrote about how he’d been a “nice guy”, although he seemed a bit shallow. But, within his first days on his first ship, he was propositioned by a woman from Trinidad and Tobago. He turned her down, but it wasn’t long before he’d become a lot more willing to have sex with anyone who offered. At the same time, he worried about catching diseases and causing pregnancies, so he wisely used condoms… until he tried having sex without one and realized it was much nicer for him. After awhile, he worried less about sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.
Below are a few samples from the book that I found kind of gross. They aren’t necessarily the worst anecdotes; they’re just snippets that I thought to highlight. Maybe you can see what I’m referring to when I comment on how gross some of the “truth” is…
Herring was in his late 20s when he was working for Carnival, but he came off as much younger and less mature. He had what seemed like a shallow and selfish attitude toward women, reducing to warm beings who should be “hunted” for his own gratification. It was depressing to read about it, especially given that a lot of the people he wrote of were married– sometimes even to other people on the ship. Combine this gross attitude toward women and sex with extreme booze drinking, and you quickly turn into someone who is very unappealing.
I might be able to overlook this distasteful and sleazy aspect of Herring’s book if the writing had been stronger, but I didn’t find Herring’s writing especially compelling. It was serviceable enough, but he doesn’t have a flair for story writing like fellow former Carnival officer Bruns does. Bruns also comes off as a much nicer person than Herring does, and keeps his stories a lot more tasteful. Most people can learn how to write in a competent way, but there’s also an art to writing well. It takes talent and empathy. I didn’t get the sense that Herring had much of either.
What I liked about The Truth About Cruise Ships…
I do think Herring’s book offers an interesting look at what it’s like to work on cruise ships. So many people take cruises and have no concept of what it’s like to live on one. Beneath the passenger areas, there’s a whole underworld where the people who make the ship work are living their lives.
Some of the realities of life working on cruise ships are kind of sad. I can almost see why so many people on ships become so fixated on vices like smoking, drinking, and promiscuous sex with practical strangers. The work can be very stressful, depending on the job, and the living conditions are neither private nor comfortable. But for a person from a poor country, the tiny cabins might not be so bad– at least there are hot showers and flushing toilets, and they can make a lot of money that goes far in developing nations.
I appreciated the fact that Herring realized that he was rapidly becoming a scumbag. He was also smart enough to know when he’d had enough of working on ships and went back to a land-based life with his Czech born wife, Mirka, whom he’d met while they were both working for Carnival. I liked how he’d had a chance to realize how Americans come across to people from other countries, and I appreciated that he took the opportunity to travel. I can personally attest to how travel and meeting people from other countries can change your life and your world view. That part of the book was inspiring.
I think Jay Herring benefitted immensely from expanding his horizons by working with people from all over the world. I just wish he’d focused less on the sex and drinking in his story. I don’t think he did his image any favors, especially given that some of the stories seemed kind of juvenile and “Porky’s-esque“. If you were around in the 1980s, you probably have an inkling of what I write.
I know Herring is conscious of image, since he writes about it in his book. That was another thing I liked less– that he would go into a pseudo-philosophy mode at times, offering some half-baked theories on human nature, some of which didn’t seem very insightful to me. Given how casual he was regarding his health and basic decency when he worked for Carnival, it seemed ridiculous that he was including these lofty passages about his theories on life. He’d go from writing about hooking up with some woman he barely knew, to some theory about human nature. It just came off as disingenuous to me.
In the end, I didn’t hate the book as much as I thought I did yesterday. But I do think there are much better books about cruise ship life out there. I see the Kindle version of The Truth About Cruise Ships is apparently no longer available. I’m not sure I’d recommend paying for the paperback version, but I can also see that some people on Amazon enjoyed the book. So if you think you would, go for it… and leave me a comment on what you think. Personally, I’m glad to move on to another book now. I don’t think I’ll be reading this book a third time.
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A very good Friday morning to you all. As I sit here listening to old songs from the 70s and 80s, I’m thinking about today’s blog post, a review of Enough, Cassidy Hutchinson’s much anticipated book about her work with disgraced former POTUS, Donald Trump. Hutchinson’s book was published September 26, 2023. I usually don’t pre-order things on Amazon, but I see I ordered Enough on September 25th. I didn’t start reading it until a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been making a concerted effort to get through it. I must admit, it hasn’t been the easiest book to read, but I also can’t read as fast as I used to, when my eyes were better.
Like so many people, I was shocked and amazed when I heard Cassidy Hutchinson’s extraordinary testimony to the January 6th Committee. I was also interested in her on a personal level, as she is a graduate of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. I grew up near Newport News, and CNU (called CNC when I was college age) has come a really long way since I was Cassidy’s age. When I heard that Cassidy Hutchinson came from Pennington, New Jersey, I was even more intrigued. When I was growing up, CNU was sort of considered a glorified community college. It had no dormitories, and a lot of the people I knew who went there were going because it was close to home and relatively inexpensive. But it’s really grown by leaps and bounds, and Cassidy Hutchinson has kind of put the school more on the map.
It’s also no secret that I DESPISE Donald Trump and his cronies. Anyone who tells the truth about his criminal behaviors and outright lies to the American people is alright with me. Or, at least that’s how I felt when I started reading Enough. Now that I’ve finished reading it, my feelings about Cassidy Hutchinson are a bit more complicated. I still think she is a brave woman who has ultimately done a huge service for the American people and, perhaps, even the world. But by the time I reached the end of her book, I realized that what she did, she mostly did to save her own skin… and that doesn’t necessarily make her heroic.
It’s not that I blame Cassidy for cooperating with Liz Cheney and the rest of the committee seeking to hold Trump responsible for what happened on January 6th, 2021. It was the right thing for her to do, morally speaking. It was also the practical thing to do, as she didn’t have the money for a decent lawyer. If she hadn’t cooperated, Cassidy Hutchinson would likely be in as much legal hot water as her former bosses are right now. But based on her book, I’m left with the impression that if Trump and his cronies had thrown her more of a bone– hadn’t labeled her as a “leaker” and turned on her– she would still be toeing the party line and parroting their talking points. I truly do hope that she’s come to her senses, at least about Trump.
Enough also includes some rather distasteful anecdotes from Cassidy Hutchinson’s childhood that, honestly, really turned my stomach and made me question some of her claims. At the beginning of the book, Hutchinson writes about her parents and her brother. She writes of how her family almost moved to Indiana and her mother had single handedly moved a baby grand piano by herself. As someone who owns a very heavy spinet piano that is in storage, I HIGHLY doubt that (it takes a couple of men to move my spinet, which is a much smaller instrument than a baby grand is). Cassidy’s father eventually decided that he couldn’t leave Pennington, New Jersey. So, just like that, the new house in Indiana was put on the market and they moved back to New Jersey. I suppose it could have happened that way, but I think there must have been much more to the story. And no matter what, I don’t believe that Cassidy’s mom moved a baby grand piano by herself.
According to her story, Cassidy Hutchinson’s father is a complete batshit crazy right wing conspiracist. He always spoke of her being a “warrior” and reminded her that warriors don’t cry. He’d go hunting and fishing, and Cassidy wanted to join him. One time she did, and watched in horror as her father obliterated a turtle with his gun. After her parents divorced, Cassidy’s dad sent her and her brother deer hearts that still dripped with blood. Not surprisingly, Cassidy’s father loves Donald Trump, and it was a tremendous source of pride to him that his daughter worked for Trump. I sense that part of the reason she identifies so much with Republican politics has to do with wanting to connect with her father, whom she admits was never a good father to her. She even outright writes that she now sees her stepfather, Paul, as more of a “dad” to her than her biological father ever was.
Like her father, Cassidy Hutchinson had also adored Donald Trump. She even put it in those terms, even though she admitted that he often behaved in a way that wasn’t presidential. I can excuse Cassidy somewhat for being young and naive, and I think maybe a bit starstruck. I also get the sense that Cassidy truly was very ambitious and really wanted to get into politics. She writes repeatedly that she thought of what she was doing as serving her country, and she demonstrates a real knack for working with people, even when they are insufferable. And yet she laughed at some of Trump’s antics, and admitted to becoming “inured” to some of his worst and most criminal behaviors. She ignored blatantly unethical and illegal actions by Trump and others in his administration. She had even committed to staying on Trump’s team until the very end, and even afterwards, when he went back to Mar-a-Lago.
It wasn’t until it became clear that Cassidy Hutchinson wasn’t going to be welcome in Florida that she started to change her tune. And then when she got served with a subpoena by federal marshalls, she realized that she was potentially in big trouble. What ended up happening is that she became loyal to their people who were willing to set her up with competent legal counsel. Fortunately, they were better people than Trump and his allies.
I took a look at Amazon’s reviews of this book. A lot of people seemed to love it. I can understand why. It was pretty awesome to hear Cassidy Hutchinson spill about working with Donald Trump and Mark Meadows. They screwed her over and wildly underestimated her. I love to see narcissistic creeps like Donald Trump and Mark Meadows get a much deserved comeuppance when they underestimate people they think can do them no harm. That part of the book– I won’t lie– is VERY satisfying.
However, I don’t think Cassidy realizes that a couple of the main reasons she was chosen for her job have to do with the fact that she’s young, very attractive, and, at least as a fresh, idealistic college graduate, easily impressed and pliant. I highly doubt Cassidy Hutchinson would have landed in her position if she had been a little bit older, wiser, and less fresh and beautiful. She was initially very loyal, trusting, and trustworthy, willing to work long hours for apparently low pay, take orders without question, and look pretty while doing so.
It’s true that Cassidy Hutchinson turned out to be much more capable than people realized. I just think it’s kind of sad that it took her so long to see the writing on the wall. My comments about Cassidy’s looks aren’t meant as a slam on her, by the way. It’s just that I’ve noticed that most of the women working in Trump’s administration had eye appeal, and that seemed to be every bit as important as their savvy and actual qualifications for the job.
If it weren’t for Liz Cheney hooking her up with lawyers who were willing to work pro bono, Cassidy Hutchinson would probably be living in Florida, still trying to advance Trump’s cause. Or, at least that’s the impression I got from reading her book. When it came down to it, her decision to cooperate with the January 6th Committee seemed to have a lot more to do with her not having enough money for a good lawyer, and not wanting to face legal repercussions, than actually doing what was right for the good of the country.
But… the most important thing is, in the end, Cassidy Hutchinson DID do the right thing and testify against Trump and his cronies. For that, I’m very grateful to her. I wish her the best of luck, though, especially if she intends to stay Republican. It may be a very long time before Trump is washed out of our political system. Right now, the Republican Party seems to be infected with Trump loyalists. Cassidy Hutchinson may find herself with a very tough row to hoe if she plans to stay involved with politics. She does seem to have a good friend in Liz Cheney, though, and maybe Cheney will be her saving grace. I don’t agree with Liz Cheney’s politics at all, but I do think she’s much more forthright and honest than Trump is. She’s more like the kind of Republicans I grew up with, back in the dark ages.
One other thing I want to mention about Enough is that it’s written in historical present tense, which I found kind of awkward and annoying. It reminded me of when I used to write papers for my English lit classes in college. I think I would have preferred Cassidy Hutchinson’s story to be written in past tense, as if she were telling the story in person. But that’s just a personal preference. Other people might not notice it or care. I do think the book would have been better if she had written it with a ghost writer, or at least a competent editor. Her writing isn’t bad, but it could use some polishing and tightening… and maybe fewer references to the many alcoholic drinks she consumed toward the end of her time in Trump land.
Overall, I think I’d give Enough 3.5 stars. I truly appreciate Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony, and some of the anecdotes in her book are illuminating and entertaining. Some are even funny– especially when she writes about Mark Meadows unwittingly taking his first alcoholic drinks in front of a devout Mormon staffer. However, some of her stories seem a little like stretches of the truth. I don’t like her use of historical present tense. The book could use some editing. And I think she might be kidding herself somewhat, trying to come off as this virtuous, caring, savior, when what she was actually doing was saving her own skin (not that I blame her for that, mind you). Still, I have certainly read worse books by people involved with the Trump administration. John Bolton’s boring snorefest comes to mind.
I will recommend Cassidy Hutchinson’s book, Enough, for the interested, and I wish her much luck and success in her future endeavors. Above all, I hope she stays safe. Unfortunately, there are some very dangerous people out there who remain loyal to Trump. I’m sure some of them wouldn’t think twice about coming after anyone who threatens their orange dear leader.
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I know I’ve written a lot of posts about the Duggar family. There was a time, years ago, that I watched their reality television program on TLC. I remember seeing them featured on the Discovery Health channel back in the early 2000s, when Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were just a fundamentalist Christian Arkansas couple with fourteen children and another on the way. I watched with amazement as they went from being a seemingly very humble family from the “sticks” of Arkansas to household names.
I’ve never been a very religious person myself. So why was I so interested in the Duggar family? Well, the truth is, I do find strict, fundamentalist religions very interesting, even though I have no desire to participate in them myself. I also got the sense that the family was too good to be true. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Sure enough, it turned out my suspicions that there was some underlying trouble in paradise was on target.
Although I used to watch the Duggars’ show– 17, 18, or 19 Kids and Counting, (depending on how many kids they had at the time) and later Counting On, on an intermittent basis, I have never been one to read their books. Like I said, I’m not a very religious person myself, so I don’t really have any desire to read books about promoting Christianity. The Duggars aren’t people I look up to, either. But, when I heard that Jill Duggar Dillard was going to be writing a book called Counting the Cost, with help from ghost writer, Craig Borlase, I decided I would read that one. I finished the book yesterday, and now I’m ready to offer my thoughts.
Jill Michelle Duggar Dillard was born May 17, 1991. She is Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s fourth born child, and the second oldest daughter of their brood of 19 living children. In her book, Jill writes that she always felt compelled to be a people pleaser. She always tried to be the most mature and best behaved of her siblings. She was so sweet that she earned the nickname Sweet Jilly Muffin.
Early in her lifetime, Jill and her siblings lived in a house next to a church that was much too small for their growing family. She writes of how her mother, Michelle, trained her children, using music and other rewards to influence their behavior. Jill writes that the kids were not allowed to dance, because her parents worried that moving inappropriately, wearing “immodest” clothes, or being exposed to worldly media would encourage sin in themselves and other people. From a very early age, Jill was trained to obey without question, and taught that if someone fell into sin, it was her fault. That early training set the conditions that made it especially difficult for her to break free of her father’s hold on her.
Thanks to Jim Bob’s wheeling and dealing with the TLC network, they were able to build their own “big house” in Tontitown, Arkansas. Jill and the other oldest siblings were involved in helping to build the Big House, to which she refers frequently in her book. The “Big House” is the specially built home the Duggars built to accommodate their huge family; it is about 7000 square feet, but it only has about four bedrooms in it. There’s a master bedroom, a girls’ room, a boys’ room, and a guest room. TLC filmed the family building the house, doing all they could as a family before professionals had to be called in to do the more challenging work. Jill writes that she was happy to have had a part in building a house for her family.
As she grew older, Jill realized that finding a husband would complicate her life, especially since she was a “star” on the Duggars’ reality show, and her father was famously very strict. Jill writes that she was raised in Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), which is a lifestyle system ultra fundamentalist Christians adhere to as a means of preserving their version of raising godly families. Gothard founded the IBLP in 1961. It should be noted that Bill Gothard was eventually ousted from the IBLP because he was accused of preying on young women. Jill mentions that her sister, Jana, the lone blonde older Duggar girl, used to work for Bill Gothard. He specifically requested that she come to Chicago to work for him, running a training program for girls in the IBLP. Gothard reportedly favored blondes.
Within the IBLP, there is the idea of the “umbrella of authority”, which is a hierarchical structure of the family within a church. Jill explains that she was raised to always honor her parents, especially her father, who would then honor the church. She believed that if she simply did everything she was told to by her father, she would never be in any kind of danger. Meanwhile, Jim Bob had a hunger for money and power. He wanted to keep the reality series going, because it brought in a lot of money and prestige, although he claimed he saw the show as a “ministry”, bringing the masses to the Duggar brand of Christianity. He bought rental properties and airplanes, new RVs, and other trappings of success. The Duggars had always said that every child is a gift from God, and that they were open to taking as many of God’s gifts as God wanted to send them. But then they used God’s gifts to fund their own prosperity gospel… to show everyone else how much God favored them and their way of life. To me, it just looks like plain old greed disguised as something “godly”.
Even though finding a mate as a Duggar wasn’t an easy prospect, as the potential spouse had to meet with her parents’ approval, Jim Bob wanted to marry off his children. Why? Because every time a Duggar got married or had a child– especially the Duggar daughters– it brought in a lot of cash for Jim Bob. And I do mean for Jim Bob— because as Jill and her husband, Derick, discovered, Jim Bob was getting paid by TLC, but he wasn’t sharing the wealth with his adult children. Instead, he’d do things like give them places to live or cars to drive. Jim Bob Duggar, it seemed, wanted his children to work for him for free, and forever. He wanted them to be under his control, and make themselves available to his every whim and command. And he even went to tricking or coercing them into signing extreme “scientology like” lifetime contracts, to force them to stay under his control.
Jill and Derick have always seemed to me like a very close and loving couple. And, in fact, that is exactly how Jill makes it seem in her book, as Derick has encouraged Jill not to let Jim Bob run her life. However, it turns out that Jim Bob actually picked out Derick for Jill, and encouraged her to get to know him, as he was serving as a missionary in Nepal. She writes that she wasn’t interested at first, but he managed to capture her heart. TLC arranged for Jill and Jim Bob to travel to Nepal to meet him in person, and that’s when they entered their “courtship”– so called “dating with a purpose” of getting married. Jim Bob was right in that Jill and Derick were very suited to each other. But he didn’t know that Derick was not going to stand for Jim Bob dictating everything in their lives together. If he’d had a clue that Derick is as assertive as he is, there is no way Jill and Derick would have ever been allowed to wed.
As the Duggar children became adults, Jim Bob realized that he needed to make everything legal. So he tricked Jill into signing a contract she didn’t read– asking for her signature on the day before her June 2014 wedding, and not giving her the whole contract, or the time to read it. Jim Bob later told Jill and Derick that he had paid Josh and Anna for awhile, but found that arrangement wasn’t to his liking. So instead of giving his children a salary, he basically paid them in gifts in kind. But he had his accountant tell the IRS that they were being paid, for tax purposes. Later, Derick, who was a trained accountant before he became a lawyer, figured out what was going on. The couple later sued Jim Bob and prevailed in getting a small pittance of money for all of the time and labor Jill put into the show.
As if the the demands of the reality show wasn’t enough stress in their relationship, back in 2015, the tabloid, In Touch, got ahold of police records from 2006, detailing interviews Jill and her sisters had with law enforcement. The 2006 police interviews stemmed from a tip that Oprah Winfrey got regarding Josh Duggar’s deviant behavior.
In 2006, the Duggars were supposed to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, but the producers got a letter about Josh Duggar’s abusive misdeeds in 2002, when he was about 14 years old. The producers called the police, and that led to an investigation of Josh’s perversions. The police records were supposed to remain sealed, since Jill and her sisters Jessa, Jinger, and Joy Anna, were all minors at the time of the investigation. But In Touch got the records, and they were later released to the world, which led to the reality show being temporarily axed. The loss of the show was, of course, bad for Jim Bob’s finances, but the records’ release also revictimized Jill, her sisters, and the other person who was molested by Josh. It was devastating and humiliating to have that incident revealed to the public years after they thought it was in the past.
Jim Bob later finagled an idea to make a new show called Jill and Jessa: Counting On, later retitled simply Counting On. It would focus on the oldest children’s lives, minus Josh and his wife, Anna, and their children. However, once again, Jim Bob fixed it so that he was the only one being paid by the TLC network. Jill and Derick were “volunteers”… except they were bound by a contract that required them to work, while Jim Bob pocketed all the money. It prevented them from living their lives on their own terms… everything from forcing them to be available for filming, even when they were out of the country, to allowing cameras in while Jill was giving birth. It was unacceptable to the couple. So they decided to fight back, and that caused great strife in the family. Jim Bob used a variety of different tactics to get Jill and Derick back under his control. They resisted him, but it came at great cost… hence the title of the book.
Overall, I think Jill and her ghost writer, Craig Borlase did an excellent job on this book. Borlase did a good job making the book sound as if it came straight from Jill, yet it was very easy to read and understand. I spotted a few awkward sentences and at least one typo, but even the awkward sentences lent an air of authenticity to Jill’s story. I would not expect her to sound like an extremely educated person, because she was homeschooled using a fundamentalist Christian curriculum. She hasn’t been to college, nor is she super worldly, although I think she’s probably the most worldly of her siblings.
I did notice a couple of things that I haven’t seen other people mention about this book. I think I detected some subtle shade thrown at Ben Seewald. I know Ben and Derick had a falling out a couple of years ago. Jill never mentions Ben by name. She refers to him as “the guy Jessa was courting”. But later, she mentions Jinger’s husband, Jeremy, and refers to him as a “great guy”. Very interesting indeed. I don’t know if that was intentional, but I did pick up on it.
After all she’s been through, one might expect Jill to be super bitter and angry. I don’t know how Jill really feels off the record, but to me, this book is a very even-handed, yet honest, treatment of her situation with her family. She makes it clear that she loves her parents, even though her father has, quite frankly, been a totally narcissistic creep.
There are a few bombshells in the book. For instance, Jill shares how her father justified telling the IRS that he paid her about $130,000 when they never received that money. Jim Bob sent an itemized list of things he’d spent money on for Jill, to include her care and feeding when she was still a minor! And he never accounted for all the work she did for him– to include doing the heavy lifting of raising several of her siblings from the time she was a child herself.
It blew my mind that Jim Bob had made so much money off his children’s weddings and grandchildren’s births, but he was unwilling to so much as help Jill and Derick pay their $10,000 insurance deductible when their second son, Samuel, was born and Jill almost bled out and died. Jim Bob offered Jill and Derick $20,000 to “settle” the situation– a total insult, really. He gave them two days to decide, then rescinded the offer. Jim Bob also used the threat of lawsuits to keep his adult kids in line (definitely not a very Christian or Christlike thing to do) .
Fortunately, Jill and Derick were smart enough not to take Jim Bob’s monetary offerings or sign any other contracts with him. They have maintained their freedom and independence. They can make decisions for their own family, including sending their sons to public schools, drinking alcoholic beverages, wearing what they want to wear, and deciding if they want piercings, tattoos, or whatever else on their own bodies. I think they know that the freedom to make their own choices in life is worth so much more than money is. I also think they will make a lot more money on this book than any lump sum monetary gift Jim Bob could ever give them. It’s too bad most of Jill’s siblings weren’t as clever as the Dillards were.
Personally, I think Jim Bob Duggar is a narcissistic dirtbag. I’m sure he comes by it honestly, as a lot of narcissists do. I know he had a difficult upbringing. There was a lot of uncertainty and periods of poverty during his childhood, and that makes him very anxious about his own station in life as an adult. He corrects that anxiety by being hyper-controlling and dictatorial, and being a fundie Christian is one way to keep everyone in line. I get that. However, I still think Jim Bob is a creep for treating his kids the way he does… especially his daughters. He acts like his children, their spouses, and his grandchildren are his property. Jill even pointed out to Jim Bob that he treats her worse than he treats his child molester son, Josh. And all because she doesn’t want to live under her father’s thumb for the rest of his life or hers.
I also don’t think Jim Bob Duggar is a very good Christian. There’s a lot more to being a Christian than simply following rules and reading the Bible. Jesus Christ was not someone who craved riches, power, and control over other people. Jesus hung out with the people who were misunderstood and cast out from society. He served other people with no strings attached. He loved other people and ministered to them. Jesus didn’t seek to own other people, nor use them to prop up his image so he could be “example” for others to follow. Christ also didn’t threaten people with lawsuits or use shady contracts to keep people under his control. Jim Bob seeks admiration from people, control over them, power, and MONEY. That is not Christlike behavior.
Somehow, Jill has managed to show grace toward her parents. The book even ends on a positive, hopeful note. She shares a sweet picture of her parents holding her youngest son, Freddy. I know Jill loves her dad, in spite of everything. I admire her for that. She’s probably a better person than I would be in her shoes.
Anyway, I enjoyed reading Jill Duggar’s book. I applaud her incredible bravery and insistence on living her life on her own terms. I hope some of her siblings will follow suit. Living under the thumb of a control freak narcissist is no way to go through life. I think the Dillards are living proof of that. So bravo to Derick and Jill! I wish the best to them and their family, and I recommend her book.
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