“Why do we romanticize the dead? Why can’t we be honest about them? Especially moms, they’re the most romanticized of anyone. Moms are saints, angels by merely existing. No one could possibly understand what it’s like to be a mom. Men will never understand, women with no children will never understand. No one buts moms know the hardship of motherhood and we non-moms must heap nothing but praise upon mom because we lowly, pitiful, non-moms are mere peasants compared to the goddesses we call mothers.”
I know. What a title. If this is your first time hearing about this book then congratulations to you because the marketing team for Simon & Schuster definitely went all out on this one. There was no way I was skipping out on this book, especially after Leggy read it first and told me about it.
Jeanette McCurdy is a former child actor, best known for her role on iCarly. Her memoir mostly recounts her life getting into the business and navigating it while managing the emotions of a narcissistic, emotionally abusive mother. She shares how her mother controlled her life and emotions including her weight which eventually led to an eating disorder. She speaks about how her life was still controlled by her mother’s voice even after she passed away from cancer in 2013.
Like most people, I know McCurdy from her days on Nickelodeon but I didn’t know anything about her personal life till I read a People magazine article on her in 2021 that talked about her one woman play with the same name as her book. I remember being taken aback by the title but much like the quote excerpt above from her book, I remember thinking back then that if her mom did do horrible things to her, why do we in fact romanticize the dead?
McCurdy is very blunt and matter of fact about how she recounts her life story especially how she walked on egg shells around her mom and spent most of her life trying to keep her mom happy including fulfilling her mom’s dream of being an actor. She does mention her dad in the book but he doesn’t seem to have had an active role in her life. I wondered if she harbored any resentment towards him but that is something she did not go into detail about. The other thing I wondered about was that McCurdy recounts things so well, to a time period as far back as when she was 6 years old that it made me wonder how she was able to remember everything verbatim and when I say that I mean generall. It was impressive.
I have seen this book described as humorous but I have to be honest, I did not encounter any humorous moments. I was more wrapped up in how in so many words, she was her mom’s emotional support human and through the pages I felt claustrophobic for her. The second half of the book follows her life beyond her mom’s control and how she tried to live life and manage her eating disorder. I confess I did not find the latter half as interesting and instead found her Nickelodeon years more interesting especially her description of Ariana Grande, the resentment she had for her back then definitely came through the pages.
Overall, while I did not think it was an exceptional book, it was entertaining enough and I do think it was brave of her to push past the norm and recognize that she was not treated well by her mother. The book never addressed if her mom suffered from a mental illness but probably there was no chance to, given her cancer. As always, I did this on audio and McCurdy reads it herself but be warned that it does sound like she is rushing through, so don’t worry your audio speed is just fine 🙂