Ali in Wonderland by Ali Wentworth
Published by Harper Paperbacks, ISBN 9780061998584
Trade paperback $14.99, 272 pages
Ali Wentworth's Ali In Wonderland And Other Tall Tales follows in the footsteps of other recent books by funny ladies, such as Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling. Like those, it is not so much a memoir as it is a series of essays. Ali wanted to write a book about the advice her mother Muffie, a Democratic social secretary in the Republican Reagan White House, gave her and Muffie does play a big role in the book, but perhaps her next book will be all about Muffie. She is one very interesting lady, and any woman whose advice in most situations consists of "get to the Four Seasons" should have her own book deal.
You might think that Wentworth's most frightening tales might be from her days trying to make it as an actress in Hollywood. And except for one horrifying robbery/rape attempt where her male friend was stabbed, most of her scary tales came from boarding school. As someone who didn't grow up with anyone who went to boarding school, I find this concept odd. I don't understand sending your teenage child many states away to school where you don't what she is doing or who she is with. And there are some scary girls at her boarding school. Apparently some people send their seriously disturbed daughters away to boarding school rather than to a psychiatric hospital.
Wentworth's mother worked in the White House and her description of life in Washington DC is amusing. She describes a dinner party where she performed a Shirley Temple song and dance routine while staring at an unsmiling Henry Kissinger. Years later, her life comes full circle as she ends up back in Washington with her husband George Stephanopolis and two daughters. Her tale of a dinner party at Donald Rumsfeld's shows a different side to the serious defense secretary as he shares his love of dachshunds with Wentworth. It was a bit surreal.
There are many chapters that mention Ali's various engagements to different men. I'm not sure I could tell you how many different guys she was engaged to, but she kissed a lot of frogs to get her prince. I really enjoyed her story of her first date and quick courtship with George, but I guess when you've had many failed engagements, you know right away when it's right. She writes about how she never was the kind of girl who planned her wedding since she was a little girl, which worked out well since George's Greek family had the wedding all mapped out. (I do find it funny that the church hall where they had their reception is the place where I vote.)
Wentworth states that "names and faces have been changed to protect her innocence." But in one chapter, she describes a relationship she had with a studly British actor that was pretty one-sided. She gives some clues as to his real identity, even though she changed his name, and later in the book she pretty much confirms his identity when many years later when she is married, she is offered a job playing the actor's love interest on his series. Since it was an HBO series, she thought it might be weird to have to get naked with the guy who just up and left her abruptly all those years ago.
The book is funny, showcasing Ali's sunny, skewed sense of humor. I most enjoyed the later chapters where Ali describes married life with kids. (Maybe it's because I could identify with that, well except for her obsession with seashells.) There is not much here about working in Hollywood, just a small part about getting her role on "In Living Color", and I hope that her next book will be more about that part of her life.
rating 4 of 5 stars
If you liked Ali in Wonderland, you might like Kathy Griffin's Official Book Club Selection