Prairie Tale by Melissa Gilbert
Foreward by Patty Duke
Finished: Jul. 4 2009
First Published: June '09
Genre: memoir, non-fiction
My mother was nearly a month past her husband's funeral when she turned her attention back to my desire to write a memoir.
Reason for Reading: I enjoy reading actor's memoirs from my childhood back to the days of the silver screen and I am a huge Little House on the Prairie fan. I received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.
Comments: Melissa writes of her life from early days up to the present time. She explains her adoptive origins and goes on to give a brief synopsis of her adoptive parents' background. Then she quickly moves onto her career which started at an early age and is really all she's ever known. Her mother was a typical backstage mother and Gilbert has gone through a long healing process to reach the place today where she and her mother are friends. Her life was very interesting and while Gilbert was a TV Star she was the same age as the famous Brat Pack and was a behind-the-scenes member as Rob Lowe's girlfriend and then fiance during that time of the eighties. There is plenty of name-dropping. She had a famous Uncle who wrote for Hollywood & television in the 40s and 50s making her accessible to some of the greats such as Frank Sinatra and Milton Berle. Also her years on Little House introduced her to many of Hollywood's elite as they appeared as guest stars over the years.
Melissa specifically concentrates on the frenzied life of a child actor, her unhealthy relationship with Rob Lowe, her first marriage and her current marriage. All of which she does not hold back with the details. She also spends much time talking about Michael Landon, her experiences with him, her feelings for him and his role in her life. She also deals with her years of drug use, though she never seems to have hit bottom with that as an addiction. It was later in life that alcohol became her addiction that made her hit bottom and sent her to recovery to become sober. These and many other topics make up the whole of this book. Melissa Gilbert lead an interesting life and accomplished a lot more with her career than I hardly knew about.
What disappoints me about these memoirs is the lack of things which I was expecting. With a title such as Prairie Tales, I was hoping for a real in depth look, behind the scenes look, at her life growing up on the set of Little House on the Prairie. Yes, she does spend quite some time on those years of her life, but the Little House memories are brief and not in depth enough. Mostly Melissa spends these years telling the reader what TV movie she worked on during each summer hiatus of the show. Many actors of the show are never mentioned, others get a brief one-liner. As far as Melissa Sue Anderson is concerned it is pretty clear from Gilbert's three short references that she took the "if you have nothing nice to say then don't say anything at all" approach. She does mention her friendship with the actress who played Nellie Olson more than anything else. But all in all it was quite disappointing from a Little House on the Prairie point of view.
Melissa also holds back on talking about her siblings. She continuously says how much her sister Sara (from Roseanne) means to her, how much she makes an impact in her life and yet as far as the memoir goes they never do a single thing together. There are no memories of anything the two did together whatsoever. Sara is simply a name in the book. If you don't already know who Sara Gilbert is, this book will make you no wiser. Her brother, Jonathan, who played Willie Olson on Little House, is barely referred to during those years in the book. I had expected to hear what it was like to work with your brother. Then at some time in the book Gilbert blurts out that she must mention that when he turned 18 he withdrew his money, packed up and left and never came back, the end, and she's fine with that. Huh? I also must mention that the swearing was rather off-putting as well; I'm just not comfortable with swearing in a narrative.
All in all I think Melissa glossed over the Little House years and then decided to talk about what she wanted to tell her fans (that she had a career outside of the show) rather than what her fans would have wanted to know about. Which is, to say the least, disappointing. But now that I've said all that, none of it means that this book is not good or not worth reading if you want to know about Melissa Gilbert, the person. She comes across as a nice, caring person. She currently works with children's hospice. She is not full of herself and tells a pretty much down to earth story of a girl growing up in the media spotlight. She grows from a naive girl overprotected by everyone to a teenager/young adult who gets in over her head to, finally, a mature woman who can take care of herself. Go ahead and read the book if it interests you, just don't expect to meet all your Little House on the Prairie friends between its pages.
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