In the interest of augmenting today’s fresh content about Mother’s Day, here’s a repost of a book review I wrote in December 2014 about Brooke Shields’ famously complex relationship with her mom, Teri.
This morning, I finished Brooke Shields’ latest book, There Was A Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me. Having grown up when I did, I well remember Brooke’s movies and her famously enmeshed relationship with her mother, Teri. All I remembered about Teri Shields, who died at age 79 on Halloween in 2012, was that she was often called a notorious stage mom. She raised Brooke as a single woman, since her marriage to Frank Shields didn’t last, and she was very involved in Brooke’s acting and modeling career.
Though she was well-known for being controlling and domineering, Teri Shields had a fun and flamboyant side to her, which Brooke Shields writes a lot about. She also writes of her mother’s love of booze and how her mother’s drinking affected her as she came of age. In her reflective memoir, Brooke reveals how co-dependent growing up with her mother made her. As a young girl, Brooke declared to her mother, “If you die; I will die.” She grew up thinking her mother was always right.
I was happy to read that Brooke enjoyed a good relationship with her father, his wife Didi, and her step and half siblings. Her upbringing was mostly in New York, Newark, and New Jersey, but she was also exposed to her father’s wealthier side of the family in the Hamptons. Brooke’s father, Frank Shields, would never watch Brooke’s films, but he did enjoy her show, Suddenly Susan, a sitcom I never got into but am now somewhat curious about. And he no doubt remembers her infamous Calvin Klein ads, too.
Some years ago, I read and reviewed Brooke’s book Down Came the Rain, which was about her experiences with postpartum depression. She does touch a bit on that in There Was A Little Girl, since she outlines what it was like having her two daughters, Rowan and Grier. She writes a little about being married to Andre Agassi and her current husband, Chris Henchy. But really, this book is all about Brooke and her mom and their very complicated relationship.
I related a bit to Brooke’s story, since I also grew up with an alcoholic. My parents were not divorced, but my mother was very co-dependent and put up with abuse because she either didn’t want to be raising her kids alone or didn’t think she’d be able to. I also know she loved my dad very much, even though he could be infuriating and insufferable at times. I get the sense that Brooke Shields also loved her mother very much and she even spells out how she felt like she wouldn’t be able to live without her. And yet, she spent a lot of her youth taking care of her mother, even to the point of giving her a livelihood. There is some bitterness that comes out in Brooke’s writing that indicates that it wasn’t easy to be Teri’s daughter.
I do think There Was A Little Girl probably could have been edited a bit. It seemed to take forever to finish this book, despite several concentrated sessions. On the other hand, I liked that Brooke seemed to come across as so normal and human. Here she is, this famous, beautiful, wealthy woman who seems like she could be a next door neighbor. And yet, she’s been in many movies, including The Blue Lagoon and Pretty Baby, movies that were controversial because of her age when she did them and the amount of nudity in them (she used body doubles). There is a photo section at the end of the book that really show how much Brooke looks like her mother.
I see on Amazon.com that There Was A Little Girl gets mixed reviews. Some people seemed to love it, while others are quick to pan it. I thought it was a decent effort and would probably give it about 3.5 stars. I think I would have given it four stars if it hadn’t rambled on so much.
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