Monday, April 22, 2013

Carrie and Me by Carol Burnett

Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story
Published by Simon & Schuster ISBN 9781476706412
Hardcover, $24.99, 224 pages

Carol Burnett's last book, This Time Together, shared anecdotes about her successful TV and stage career. I was thrilled to meet this amazing entertainer at a book signing, and she was just as kind and friendly as she appears on TV.

Ms. Burnett's latest book, Carrie and Me- A Mother Daughter Love Story is a much more personal book about her daughter Carrie, who first battled drug addiction and later cancer, which killed her at the age of thirty-eight.

Carrie's bright personality shines though in this memoir. She was a unique lady, so talented and she fought hard to make it through the terrors of drug addiction. Burnett tells a story of the young Carrie, who after her first day of school said to her mother, "Boy, Mommy, am I glad THAT'S over with!" Burnett did not have the heart to tell her that it would be much more than one day.

As a teenager, Carrie thought, like many teenage girls, that she was not pretty and shocked her mother when she asked her mom if she was ugly. Carrie's insecurity led to her drug use, which she hid from her parents. She was hanging around with a bad crowd, and by the time Carol and her husband discovered what was going on, Carrie was in trouble.

They sent Carrie to rehab, and any parent reading this will identify with the conflicting feelings that Burnett expresses so well. She bargained with God to save her baby, first from drugs, and then from cancer.

Carrie eventually makes it through, and ends up acting and writing like her mother. She was unique, from her pink-streaked hair to the tattoo of the bird of paradise on her shoulder. She was a regular on TV's Fame, and won an award at a Latino film festival for a movie she created, the first non-Latino to win.

Carol and Carrie wrote a play together, The Hollywood Arms, about Carol's childhood, that they eventually took to Broadway. It was at this time that Carrie became ill with cancer, and instead of railing against the unfairness of it, of beating drug addiction only to deal with this, she dealt with it calmly.

She became a warrior, using all of her positive thoughts to focus on beating cancer. I loved the scenes in her hospital room, surrounded by her family and friends, at peace with her life. She was a unique, special person.

Carrie was working on a project before she got sick, and she had been sending her mother the pages to read and critique. That story comprises the last section of the book, and it is so beautiful, about a troubled young woman who meets a man who is more than he appears. It is prescient, like she knew what might be coming in her life.

I'm ending this review with words that Carrie shared with Carol that describe her artistic philosophy.
"I think our legacy is really the lives we touch, the inspiration we give, altering someone's plan- if even for a moment- and getting them to think, rage, cry, laugh, argue, or walk around the block dazed. (I do that a lot after seeing powerful theater!)" 
After reading this moving book, I can safely say that anyone who reads it will be touched by Carrie's life story, as well as by a mother's love for her daughter. It would make a wonderful Mother's Day gift.

rating 4 of 5

My review of  This Time Together in the Auburn Citizen is here.

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