I am so impressed by Sally Field. In Pieces is a poignant, charming, and absorbing tale. And she lived it all. Although she never glosses over the difficult parts of her life, she intersperses them with her triumphs. Through it all, we learn just how hard a Hollywood life is and that Field had to fight for each of her victories.
Field is the child of a show business family. Her mother, who Field calls Baa, was a small-time actress. And her step-father Jocko is a slightly famous stunt man. Neither of them were big names in the business, although her step-father got closer to the big time. And he had a major ego to go with that minor success. His ego created plenty of problems for the family, and he also abused Sally throughout her pre-teen and early teen years. (So, trigger warnings are warranted here.)
But the ongoing thread through every part of Field’s life is her mother. Of course, she wants to know why her mother never stopped the abuse. And yet, she also depends on Baa for so many things, especially help with her kids. Baa is Field’s cheerleader, her confidante, and in many ways, her best friend. In each stage of the story, Field and her mother find their way through, right up to the end. It’s a precious relationship, despite the bumps and bruises they endure together.
As much as this is a family story, it’s also about how Field navigated her career journey. She was thrown into acting and started out in sitcoms like Gidget and The Flying Nun. I’d forgotten how young she was when those came out. But soon enough she realizes she has no acting training, and can’t move forward without it. Through the years, Field gains more skill at her craft. And In Pieces takes us through that progression. Ultimately, Field becomes an award-winning actress, famous for her often-misquoted Oscar acceptance speech, “You like me. Right now, you like me.”
Yes, after reading this book, I like Ms. Field more than ever. I truly want to watch those award-winning performances again. I also see in the book’s acknowledgements, that Field has brought her ability to learn a craft to her writing skills. This isn’t just a quick celebrity memoir. She worked hard at writing a truly interesting and unique story of her life. I admire that about her.
For me, the balance between family and career in the book was perfect. Some mostly respectful Hollywood dishing, punctuated by Field’s liberal swear words. The stories of her childhood, especially those connected with her fathers, broke my heart. And the mother-daughter tension between love and anger, sang like a plucked guitar string. Sometimes it was melodic, and others it just twanged with the pain she felt.
If you’re looking for a well-written celebrity memoir, look no further. This will be especially meaningful to folks who grew up in the 60s and 70s.
Pair with Becoming for sheer star power. Or with What Comes Next and How to Like It for mother-daughter memoir, from the mother perspective. Or with Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, which is also so intensely about his mother.