The Glass Castle meets The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in this dazzlingly honest and provocative family memoir by former child actress and current Fox Business Network anchor Melissa Francis.
When Melissa Francis was eight years old, she won the role of lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl who was adopted with her brother (played by young Jason Bateman) by the Ingalls family on the world's most famous primetime soap opera, Little House on the Prairie. Despite her age, she was already a veteran actress, living a charmed life, moving from one Hollywood set to the next. But behind the scenes, her success was fueled by the pride, pressure, and sometimes grinding cruelty of her stage mother, as fame and a mother's ambition pushed her older sister deeper into the shadows.
Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter is a fascinating account of life as a child star in the 1980's, and also a startling tale of a family under the care of a highly neurotic, dangerously competitive "tiger mother." But perhaps most importantly, now that Melissa has two sons of her own, it's a meditation on motherhood, and the value of pushing your children: how hard should you push a child to succeed, and at what point does your help turn into harm?
A recounting of her mother's abusive behavior sets the stage for Melissa Francis's compelling memoir. Francis, now a broadcast news journalist, once played Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the television show Little House on the Prairie. By the time she landed the plum role she was already a television pro. Her older Tiffany disliked performing, which antagonized their neurotic mother. She lavished attention on Francis and constantly belittled and harangued her sister, and their mother's mercurial temperament created continuous family tension. "When we were at home, my sister and I lived in a state of constant wariness, always reading Mom's mood and bracing for impact when that mood turned ominous." As Francis departed for Harvard, her older sister's life was a shambles. Though once very close, their intimacy had dissipated, a fact Francis deeply regrets. The author's personal and professional life flourished; her sister's spiraled downward in a cloud of loneliness, depression, and drugs resulting in a family tragedy and her mother's ultimate act of betrayal: "It had been more than a year since I had given her the choice of coming back to help Tiffany or losing us forever, and she has chosen to throw all of us away." A thoughtful trek across a troubled family landscape resulting in a bittersweet yet hopeful final act.