In Pieces (2018) – Sally Field

Title:In Pieces
Author:Sally Field
Publisher:Simon and Schuster/Jonathan Ball Publishers
Date of publication:2018
Star Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer:Jonathan Ball Publishers kindly sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

I grew up watching Sally Field in Mrs Doubtfire (1993)and Forest Gump (1994). Films that I watched numerous times as a child, and then again as an adult with a lot more awareness as to the importance of certain film roles. Sally Field is not the main character in either of these, and yet the minute she is on screen you feel comforted by her presence, and even if you don’t feel as though you might know her (or someone quite like her), you surely feel as though you want to (get to know her). Sally Field never played Sally Field. As the title of this memoir suggests Sally Field has this extraordinary ability to break up parts of herself and become something completely whole. If this is the general consensus as to what acting is then yes Sally Field is an actor, and a great one.

Born in 1946 and growing up in a family of strong women without a permanent father figure per say, Field’s feminist rage is a common theme throughout this book. A constant ‘work in progress’, the actress started out performing in school plays, with a mother who had also chosen a career in acting when this was not very common. In one particular incident Sally remembers being driven home after a school stage production and being told by her mother that her performance had been “magical”. Soon another aspect of show business would appear in her life in the form of her mother’s boyfriend Jock ‘Jocko’ O’Mahoney who was a stuntman in the movies. Jocko’s inappropriate relationship with his young stepdaughter would end up becoming a tragically significant part of her life that thankfully did not completely consume her, as it could easily have done.

Her career as an actress would begin in 1965 in the television show Gidget and then a year later in The Flying Nun. During her years in television Sally was frustrated with the un-challenging work and joined an acting workshop known as The Actor’s Studio run by Lee Strasberg and Bruce Dern. Constantly striving to be a better actress and hone her craft she was consistently torn between making money to feed her family, and her desperate need to play a role she could be proud of.

At this point she was now married to childhood sweetheart Steven Craig, and had two sons Peter and Elijiah, who often, like the many children of actors, spent time apart from their Hollywood parents. Sally Field though devoted to her children, is always honest about the endearing love affair she had (and still has) for her work. Leaving her children with their grandmother or father was a sacrifice made in order to fulfill that often empty feeling she admits to having when she was not doing what she loved. Sally’s relationships with her children, and those she worked with and even the men, including the father’s of her children (she would have a third son Sam with Alan Greisman) were relationships on the periphery of the one she had with her mother. Throughout the memoir Field’s relationship with her mother is a friendship and a love that would last a lifetime and one in which the reader feels privileged to be made aware of.

In the 1970’s after her divorce from Steven Craig Field was involved in a toxic relationship with fellow actor Burt Reynolds. They would star in 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit creating a stream of criticism in Hollywood from those that were already questioning her ability to move from television to film. However her performances in the 1976 Sybil about a woman suffering from multiple personalities and her starring role in Norma Rae (1979), and earning the coveted Academy Award for the former would quickly change people’s opinions as to who exactly Sally Field as an actress truly was.

Why is it easier for me to write about the times in my life that felt humiliating or shameful? Is it because those are the things that haunt me? Do I hold on to those dark times as a badge of honor, are they my identity? The moments of triumph stay with me but speak so softly that they’re hard to hear – and even harder to talk about.”

It is important to note that Sally Field is a great writer. Her story is not one of Hollywood gossip and name dropping (though of course that does occur occasionally). Her story is really about a strong woman whose many roles as mother, wife, daughter, granddaughter, girlfriend and actress are all just parts of a whole. Her ability to move house (which she did quite regularly), earn money as an actress, and be a mother to her sons whilst still raging against her own inner turmoil are honest to goodness peeks into the life of a woman who is not done yet. Her openness and raw honesty regarding feminism and the battles women fight everyday are a part of her own story, but they are also a part of ours. Perhaps that is the reason we feel as though we know her (even though we do not), and perhaps that is the mark of a great memoir. The unique and the universal.

In Pieces is a beautiful blend of diary entries chronicling her struggles in both her professional and personal life. She reminisces over her early life growing up in Pasadena, California, and her incredible ability to write about Hollywood in such a way that the glitz and glamour is stripped away and what we are left with is Sally Field, a woman apologetically in love with acting and everything else in between.

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