Novelist Moore (In the Cut) looks back at the tumultuous events she experienced in the 1960s and 1970s. Moore's childhood, visited in an earlier memoir (Light Years), ended abruptly in 1963, when she was sent to Pennsylvania by her stepmother to live with her maternal relatives. The following decades, chronicled in exacting prose, see Moore attempting to build a life despite being sheltered from the realities of how other people live. Her journey to adulthood included years working as a sales clerk, model, personal assistant, and script reader to at least one movie star, as well as friend to the literati and glitterati after she made her way to California. Despite these seeming adventures, Moore's saga is far from the stuff of fairy tales, and the shadow cast by the early loss of her enigmatic mother is never far from the page. More harrowing still are the accounts of the cavalier attitudes toward women and sexual assault, which Moore describes ever so matter-of-factly. VERDICT Moore offers readers a well-written, unobstructed view of what appears to be an idyllic life, ultimately revealing that looks can be deceiving.—Thérèse Purcell Nielsen, Huntington P.L., NY
A novelist's engaging coming-of-age memoir.
In her novel Sleeping Beauties (1993), Moore (Creative Writing/Princeton Univ.; Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii, 2015, etc.) spun a dark fairy tale complete with a wicked stepmother and handsome prince who turns out, sadly, not to be charming. Here, she evokes that work of fiction: an account of her life, adventures, and misadventures, from childhood to her 30s. Once again, there is a cruel stepmother, a woman her father quickly married after Moore's mother, who had suffered several mental breakdowns, died in her sleep; a hardscrabble young adulthood when Moore, at 17, was sent from her native Hawaii to live with her grandmother and aunt in Pennsylvania; beneficent godmothers; handsome lovers; and fabulous clothes. Moore's stepmother resented Moore and her siblings, rationed their food, and deprived them of simple childhood pleasures. To escape her repressive home, Moore slipped away to visit a neighboring couple, the extremely wealthy and influential Kaisers: he, the famous shipbuilder; she, his beautiful younger wife, who bestowed on Moore castoff designer clothes, furs, and shoes. The Kaisers' connections opened doors for the author: a job at Bergdorf's; modeling, including at a boat trade show, where she wore a glittering silver sheath as Miss Aluminum; and minor roles in movies. With no aspirations to be an actor, Moore takes a wry, cleareyed view of the movie world's pretensions. Like the Kaisers, Connie Wald, the glamorous widow of producer Jerry Wald, proved to be another benefactor, launching Moore into a world of literary, artistic, and entertainment royalty: Joan Didion, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Mike Nichols, and Jack Nicholson (with whom Moore had a brief fling), among many others. Moore portrays herself as "self-invented…a girl on the run," buffeted by life, "high-spirited" but always in need of emotional and financial protection and constantly afflicted by a "ceaseless longing for my mother." By her 30s, she stood on firmer ground: divorced, mother to an infant daughter, newly confident about shaping her future.
A captivating portrait of a woman in search of herself.